Scientists at the Nova Southeastern University Marine Larval Ecology & Recruitment Lab have successfully induced colonies of Montastrea cavernosa (great star coral), a major reef-building species in Florida, to reproduce in captivity for the first time ever. The corals have been held in indoor aquariums for the last year, where Dr. Joana Figueiredo and her lab were able to mimic the natural cues that induce corals to develop gametes (egg and sperm) and signal their release in the wild (called “coral spawning”). Both males and females released their gametes over 5 nights, allowing them to be mixed and fertilized to produce hundreds of thousands of coral larvae to be grown in their aquaculture facilities.
The ability to complete the coral reproductive cycle in land-based aquaria represents a breakthrough in coral science and restoration. The Marine Larval Ecology & Recruitment Lab at Nova Southeastern University plans to spawn more species of bouldering and brain corals this coming year using the same techniques, with plans to study both coral aquaculture techniques and reef restoration using sexually-produced coral recruits.