Birthing new corals to protect the reefs

Researchers in the NUS Tropical Marine Science Institute (TMSI) observed a recent coral spawning session in their laboratory in April, a result of efforts to nurture lab-grown corals. Pink bundles of sperm and eggs released by the corals combined in the water to produce larvae which could eventually settle on a suitable substrate and develop into new corals.

The aim of the coral spawning effort is to propagate corals sexually so stock can be readily available for research or to support the aquarium trade, which would reduce the need to harvest wild coral.

“Corals derived from sexual methods have the advantage of being more genetically diverse, which increases the population’s gene pool and enhances its chances of survival in times of stress,” said TMSI Research Fellow Dr Lionel Ng.

This method of coral spawning is in addition to the usual asexual means of producing them via fragmentation of existing corals. Dr Ng explained, “Corals that are derived asexually will not contribute to increasing the population’s genetic diversity, but the nurtured fragments would already be of a certain size and may be more resistant to environment stresses. They are therefore more likely to survive and grow better.”

“We need a combination of both methods to maximise success in reef conservation and restoration efforts,” said Dr Ng.

Click here to read more.