If you have kids who love all things under the sea, they’re going to want to see this. Scientists made an amazing breakthrough with coral reproduction that just might help save the world’s third largest barrier reef from extinction.
Their discovery was captured on video, and it’s beautiful and awe inspiring.
What did the scientists at Florida Aquarium capture exactly? For the first time ever, they were able to reproduce ridged cactus coral in a lab setting. Before this, they didn’t know how it reproduced!
Why Is This Coral Discovery So Important?
Coral may only cover about 2% of ocean floor, but reef ecosystems are home to astounding 25% of marine life. Coral is important to the health of the ocean as well as the animals that live there. Some animals you’ll find living in the reef include sharks, dolphins, and sea turtles — and yes, depending on where the reef is, clown fish like the ones in Finding Nemo too.
But coral reefs around the world are in danger. Climate change and human interaction are two of the many factors leading reefs to the brink of extinction. The Atlantic Coral Reef — the third largest in the world — has also been suffering from disease since 2014. But barrier reefs can not exist without coral (just as rainforests can’t exist without trees).
In 2014, the Florida Aquarium rescued some adult colonies from disease. Since then they’ve been studying them in hopes of breeding and reproducing them to save the reef from extinction. The video from the Florida Aquarium was the first time ever that scientists were successfully able to catch the “birth” of coral on video.
How This Discovery Can Save the Florida Reef
Now that scientists understand the basic biology of how coral is “born,” they can start to investigate how far — and how long — the larvae swim around the ocean before turning from a larvae into adult. All of this info will help them protect and restore reefs, which in turn will help ocean life. I’d say that’s a pretty amazing accomplishment! As Keri O’Neill, a senior scientist at Florida Aquarium, said to CNN, “This work gives me renewed hope for what is possible in the future.”
If your kids want to learn more about underwater life and the importance of reefs, check out resources from the Smithsonian Zoo, Smithsonian Learning Lab, and the Coral Restoration Foundation. There’s also a plethora of children’s books about coral reef ecosystems too, including a National Geographic early reader packed with pictures that show how beautiful healthy reefs look. You can also watch a fun time lapse video of coral here.
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