[Coral-List] Acropora transport and thermal shock

Eric Borneman eborneman at uh.edu
Fri Feb 4 10:08:58 EST 2005

Just a word of addition to what Tom wrote.  I can think of no quicker 
way to ensure the death of shipping Acropora than to wrap or even 
include strips of plastic or bubble wrap. The plastic forms a tight 
adherence to the tissue where it touches and basically "suffocates" the 
coral.  It will die quickly where there is prolonged contact - and this 
is despite the propensity of many shippers to use this method. Every 
wet plastic attempt we have used with many species of coral has 
resulted in stress and slower acclimation (at best) to bleaching 
(usually) to complete tissue death (too often to count) - often within 
2-6 hours with a good plastic/tissue contact. OTOH, if done damp 
shipped or as Tom described, you could potentially go up to 48 hours, 
though I would suggest an oxygen cap in the bag for this long and not 
just air. Generally, I would try to get a properly packed colony to its 
final destination in less than 12 hours if possible.  Rebagging and 
water changes help a lot, if possible, too.  Also, during collection, 
minimal handling and a twenty four hour period after any breaking of 
the colony will slow mucus production which can foul the shipping 
water.  I have tied strings around the colonies and just suspended them 
in the water, or mounted them on a shipping base prior to shipping with 
24 hour acclimation in the ocean prior to bagging.  This helps a lot, 
too.  Finally, a surface sterilization doesn't hurt - brief dip in 
diluted Lugol's solution, low dose tetracycline, or cold flushes with 
seawater will reduce surface microbes that tend to pull down oxygen in 
the bag and at the coral tissue surface during the shipping process ( 
but the cold flush and Lugol's have the undesirable efffects of 
increasing mucus production...not so much with the tetracycline though 
AB use has its own downsides including creating resistance in a diverse 
population). If this is done, another period for the coral to slow 
mucus production in freshly mixed seawater or sterile ocean water 
helps. Do not allow the heat packs to come in direct contact with the 
shipping containers - it will raise the temperature too much, which is 
why they are taped to the underside of the styrofoam.

Here are some additional refs with methods to be considered:

Fitzgerald LM, Szmant AM.Biochem J. 1997 Feb 15;322 ( Pt 1):213-21. 
Biosynthesis of 'essential' amino acids by scleractinian corals. (for 
the sterilization techniques)

Bronikowski EJ (1982) The collection, transportation, and maintenance 
of living corals. AAZPA Annual Proceedings: 65-70 (old but still true 
and still not widely used)

Carlson BA (1999) Organism responses to rapid change: what aquaria tell 
us about nature. American Zoologist 39: 44-55 (dittos above method)

Petersen Dirk,  Michaël Laterveer David van Bergen Maureen 
KuenenTransportation techniques for massive scleractinian corals Zoo 
Biology 23: 165-176 (good methods, but involves large heavy colonies 
for prolonged transport)

Hodgson G (1990) Tetracycline reduces sedimentation damage to corals. 
Marine Biology 104: 493-496 (for dose levels of surface sterilization)


Eric Borneman

Department of Biology
University of Houston
Science and Research Bldg II
4800 Calhoun Rd.
Houston TX 77204

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