[Coral-List] first captive breeding of ridged cactus coral

Keri O'Neil koneil at flaquarium.org
Thu Apr 23 16:52:37 UTC 2020

Hello all,

Thank you for sharing the article Doug.  I can provide a little more background from the scientific perspective.  The corals that have been releasing larvae are Mycetophyllia lamarkiana.  We have also been monitoring M. aliciae but no larvae have been released from them yet. These corals have been held ex-situ for 18 months at this point.  They were collected as part of the Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease Coral Rescue Project led by Florida FWC and NOAA Fisheries.  We have held all Mycetophyllia we have close together in a recirculating aquarium system, hoping that if sperm was released it would have enough residence time in the tank to fertilize nearby corals before being removed by filtration.  The parent corals are held in greenhouses and get natural sunlight (in the Tampa area, which is close in timing but not exactly the same as the Florida Keys).  We manually change their water temperature setting monthly to mimic a 10 year average of water temperature from data from Key Largo, FL, with extremes highs removed such as major bleaching years.  They do get natural moonlight, but there is a fair amount of light contamination from nearby streetlights and even small LEDs in the greenhouse on various electronics.  Soon we will look at the recruits from this event to confirm that cross fertilization did occur, as genetic samples have also been collected from parent colonies in this project.

Also we definitely did not intend to imply that no work had ever been done on MLAM, and can’t control the exact wording in all of the news articles, so I do apologize if we did not pay appropriate tribute to previous investigations in this species.  We have read the thesis by José Antonio Morales Tirado from Ernesto Weil’s lab in 2006 and also Alina’s coral reproduction paper from 1986, and these were critical to us even knowing when to start to look for larvae in these species, but I think we can all admit there is still a lot to document and learn about Mycetophyllia.  Although this one event certainly will not “save coral reefs”, we are simply hopeful that we can continue to keep an ex-situ population of corals with a high level of genetic diversity, and promote annual spawning even when those corals are held ex-situ for an extended period of time.  Although no one wants to be faced with pulling corals off of the reef to ensure their future, we believe this type of intervention can in fact help prevent localized extinction of some species in Florida, and preserve genetic diversity in the population, most notably in the wake of Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease.

As Les said, we are celebrating our small success.

With regards,

Keri O'Neil

Keri O'Neil, MS
Manager & Senior Scientist, Coral Conservation Program
701 Channelside
Tampa, FL 33602

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