Trees and Fish

Craig Bingman cbingman at
Mon Nov 5 01:25:38 EST 2001

Daphne and others,

While I agree that technically an organism removed from an ecosystem alive
and an organism removed from an ecosystem for uses that automatically
involve its death is the same in terms of loss of nutrients, etc, I'm not
sure that the organisms are necessarily genetic dead-ends.  After a
significant loss of a particular strain of Sinularia from the wild from an
island group, there was a call to aquarists to see if anyone definitely
had that strain going in their systems.  There was some discussion of
potentially using aquarium corals to restock that area.

I don't know whether or not the aquarium hobby was able to help out in
that case.  Unfortunately, there is a fair amount of geographic confusion
about where given specimens come from, once they have made it thorugh
several hands and several tanks.  I also think that this is a situation
that needs to be approached with considerable caution, given the fact that
many private aquaria are "pan-tropical" and contain organisms from many
geographic locations.  There would be some chance of introducing a novel
disease or other undesirable organism if aquarium corals were actually
used in this way.

However, as reefs in the wild are under increasing pressure from many
fronts, I would expect such local wipeouts to be increasingly common in
the future.  It no longer seems beyond the realm of possibility that
aquarium corals might be used to restock wild reefs under some

My question to the reef research community is what steps the aquarium
hobby could take to increase the value of our germline holdings?  There
has been some discussion of this in the hobby for several years.
Initially, I was somewhat dismissive of the idea.  But things have changed
substantially over the last few years, both because of the hobby's success
in captive propagation of several species, and because things seem to be
falling apart in the wild at an accelerating pace.

The coral strains that we would have to offer are almost without exception
clonal strains.  So their genetic diversity would be quite low.

Obviously the best place to conserve corals is in wild populations.  But
things in the wild seem to be increasingly out of control.  If there are
any bookkeeping or other mesures that private aquarists could be taking to
increase the value of their stocks, then I feel certain that the hobby
would be receptive to suggestions along those lines.


cbingman at

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