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Scientists have successfully reproduced endangered species of Atlantic coral in an artificial setting for the first time.
The Atlantic pillar coral, a coral species found in the Florida Reef, has been classified as almost extinct. Aside from severe damage to coral populations caused by climate change, a new coral illness called Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease increased the threat of its extinction.
Researchers from the Florida Aquarium and London’s Horniman Museum and Gardens started working together in 2017 to find ways to increase the population of the endangered coral species. The scientists were able to legally collect coral fragments from the protected reef to conduct the research.
For the experiment, the scientists put up an aquarium equipped with advanced technology to imitate the natural conditions of the ocean. The artificial setup was designed to help scientists carefully regulate water temperature. Lighting settings were also controlled to create the effect of sunrise and sunset, which are important factors in preparing corals to reproduce. The experiment proved successful when the corals released eggs and sperms after several months.
The achievement sparked hope to repopulate coral reef systems around the world. Keri O’Neil, one of the researchers, is hoping that the new corals will have better resistance to the changing conditions in their natural environment. The corals that the team reproduced in the lab were reportedly produced with new genetics and traits that may increase their chances of survival. O’Neil further stated that the team is planning to conduct the experiment on other coral species aside from the Atlantic pillar coral.