Scientists Breed Endangered Atlantic Coral Species in an Aquarium

Category: Science/Environment


Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

  1. classify / ˈklæs əˌfaɪ / (v) – to group things together based on their similarities

    Some people believe that corals are plants, but they are actually classified as animals.

  2. fragment / ˈfræg mənt / (n) – a broken piece of something

    You should be careful not to step on small fragments of seashells on the shore.

  3. imitate / ˈɪm ɪˌteɪt / (v) – to make something similar to another thing

    The artist used a special fabric to imitate the fur of real animals.

  4. setup / ˈsɛtˌʌp / (n) – the way something is arranged or organized

    This high-tech zoo offers an ideal setup for breeding endangered animals.

  5. repopulate / rɪˈpɒp yəˌleɪt / (v) – to increase or restore the population of a place where it previously declined

    After the dead river was revived, the researchers started to repopulate it with fish.


Read the text below.

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.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.

Discussion A

• Do you think the declining population of corals is an alarming issue? Why or why not?
• What do you think are the advantages of breeding corals in an artificial setup? Discuss.

Discussion B

• If you were given a chance to breed an endangered species in an artificial setup, what would it be and why?
• In your opinion, could species bred in artificial setups (e.g. aquarium, zoo) be better than species that grew up or developed in natural conditions? Discuss.