MAKE THIS YEAR’S CORAL SPAWN COUNT!
Florida’s Essential Animal — Coral — is Depending on You
What's the Staghorn Coral Spawn?
The Staghorn coral spawn is one of the coolest events on Earth. Staghorn coral is an animal, and the odds of it successfully reproducing in the wild are slim to none these days. Once a year, around the August full moon, if all conditions are right, staghorn coral will release bundles of eggs and sperm into the water. Millions float around, looking for that chance meeting, where if joined, a coral larvae is formed.
Why should we care about coral?
Coral are the building blocks of coral reefs -- one of the most valuable and diverse ecosystems on earth, covering only 2% of the ocean floor but providing a habitat for over 25% of the marine life. The Great Florida Reef, which spans nearly 150 miles, is home to more than 1,400 species of marine plants and animals. These animal habitats provide a prime location for human leisure and livelihood and act as a defense against coastal storm damage. A reef’s pristine dive and snorkel setting also acts as a nursery for both commercial and recreational fisheries.
What’s the problem?
Staghorn coral colonies are too far apart to ever meet. In many places along The Great Florida Reef (the third largest in the world), staghorn coral colonies appear unhealthy and even if larvae are miraculously created, the odds that they will survive are still slim, as they must find the right conditions to settle down. Permanently.
What’s the answer?
We must work to protect what is left in Marine Protected Areas and to quickly produce as much coral as possible and to restore coral reefs. The Florida Aquarium’s coral conservation team has been studying this coral spawn for more than a decade, and is working closely with NOAA, University of Florida, the Coral Restoration Foundation (CRF) and various members of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. Each spawn, a dedicated team of science divers collect the eggs and sperm from CRF’s underwater coral nursery, bring it to a nearby lab to produce larvae, and then they release some of these larvae back into the wild. Others are brought back to The Florida Aquarium’s Center for Conservation where the difficult task of reproducing them in an on-shore system occurs. Though difficult, we know it can be done. The first and only staghorn coral to be grown in a controlled environment was reared by The Florida Aquarium team in 2014!
We must expand our understanding and our team.
This year a team of researchers from the National Aquarium of Cuba will be coming to learn and participate in The Florida Aquarium’s coral spawn program. Both Aquariums are now formal partners, working on coral reefs in both the US and Cuba.
Likewise, an international team participating in a Smithsonian coral cryopreservation workshop will help ensure staghorn coral DNA is preserved for the distant future.
So How Can You Make the Coral Spawn Count?
Help Us Build Our Coral Ark!
We currently have two on-shore coral arks (greenhouses retrofitted with state-of-the-art equipment) but need others! The more coral we can grow and use to restore natural reefs, the faster we can stem the tide on our disappearing Great Florida Reef.
Help us Strengthen Our Cuba Collaboration!
We are excited to break new ground in coral research through our partnership with the National Aquarium of Cuba.
Thank you for helping us make a huge difference for our marine environment during the amazing and critical staghorn coral spawn event. Your support will help us protect our Great Florida Reef for hundreds of marine animals that call it home.