Pioneering experiment could shed new light on captive coral reproduction


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A collection of live corals has travelled from a South East Asian reef to South East London, as part of a pioneering tandem experiment spanning 6,736 miles and two continents.

The study, run at the Horniman Museum and Gardens Aquarium in Forest Hill and the S.E.A. Aquarium at Resorts World Sentosa, aims to reproduce captive corals simultaneously in South London and Singapore.

Following their journey, the 14 specimens of Table coral, Acropora hyacinthus are now being kept behind the scenes at the Horniman’s Aquarium, in carefully-controlled conditions replicating those of their home reef. S.E.A. Aquarium is keeping a set of their own locally-sourced corals in the same conditions.

Horniman's aquarium curator, Jamie Craggs, says: "We’re hoping our new corals here will spawn, casting eggs and sperm into the surrounding water, at the same time as those at S.E.A. Aquarium — and crucially that this will happen simultaneously with the corals living wild on the original reef."

The partnership also includes the SECORE Foundation, which is providing scientific support and updates from the Singaporean reef that the corals are from. The experiment will test whether the environmental controls being used in the Horniman’s wider Project Coral research are working, to replicate accurately the conditions of wild reefs, allowing researchers to predict when the captive corals will spawn. Project Coral aims to use this knowledge to manipulate captive coral spawning, to investigate the impact of climate change on coral reproduction.

Mathilde Richer de Forges, Senior Manager of Conservation, from S.E.A. Aquarium says: "Current research is limited to studying a single spawning event in the field. This collaboration will deepen our understanding of coral biology, and the predictive reproduction of corals under human care."

Jamie Craggs adds: "If this new experiment is successful, it brings us one more step closer to a full understanding of coral reproduction, which we can then use to help secure the future of coral reefs."

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