Marine scientists are creating "test-tube coral babies," hoping offspring will take root to help restore part of a coral reef damaged by a ship grounding in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.
A team of University of Miami marine science researchers, led by National Marine Fisheries Service ecologist Margaret Miller is collecting coral eggs and sperm this week during an annual reproductive ritual. Most corals in the Keys, Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean release eggs and sperm into the water a few days after the full moon in August. In the wild, eggs and sperm randomly mix and fertilize to become coral larvae. Some of it takes root to serve as foundation blocks for new coral. Miller provides artificial labs on the backs of boats for the fertilization.
“In our case they’re doing it in a dish or in a cooler on the back of the boat and it’s a fairly labor intensive process over several days of changing their water essentially, siphoning off some of the waste products that are in the water and providing them fresh sea water sort of over the next week or so during this phase when they’re little blobs swimming around.”
Beginning this weekend, Miller's team plans to take the larvae to a 400-foot freighter that ran aground off Key Largo in 1984. The grounding destroyed nearly five thousand square feet of corals.
Using money from fines the ship's owners paid, much of the site was restored in 2002, but there has not been evidence of any hard coral growth.
Marine scientists hope "test-tube coral babies" will take root to help restore a tract of reef ravaged by a 1984 ship grounding off the Florida Keys. This week a team of University of Miami marine science researchers is collecting coral eggs and sperm during an annual
reproductive ritual, dubbed “coral spawning”. National Marine Fisheries Service ecologist Margaret Miller explains what happens next.
“We will be taking these coral larvae of reef building coral species, enclosing them around some of these limestone artificial structures that were built back in that area in the hopes that they will be able to settle and indeed return to being a coral reef in that area as opposed to some limestone structures.”
Looking like an upside-down, underwater snowstorm, most corals in the Keys, Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean release eggs and sperm a few days after the full moon in August. In the wild, eggs and sperm randomly mix and fertilize to become larvae. Some take root to become foundation blocks for new coral.
Friday, 18 August 2006 01:00
Test Tube Coral BabiesWritten by WGCU Newsroom