Ridged Cactus Coral
Researchers at the Florida Aquarium have just added a new Caribbean coral to their captive spawning list. Mycetophyllia lamarkiana, the ridged cactus coral has successfully produced coral larvae, and more than 350 little baby corals are now growing under the watched eye of aquarium staff.
The ridged cactus coral is an uncommon aquarium coral and only found in a few select aquariums across the states. We recently visited the Butterfly Pavilion in Denver Colorado who have a rare collection of Caribbean corals including the ridged cactus coral.
Because these corals are uncommon in captivity relatively little is known about their spawning cycles. “Basic things about these species we know nothing about,” said Keri O’Neil, senior coral scientist at the Florida Aquarium. The scientists have no clue, for instance, how long the corals will put out larvae. “For all we know they do it all year long and we just didn’t catch it before.”
The ridged cactus coral is a type of brooding coral meaning it spits out fully formed larvae, up to 3 mm long. The team first recorded the process happening on video before they really knew what was going on.
In a recent post, Keri wrote, “These corals are held in our greenhouses, so get natural Florida light cycles, but we manually change their water temperature setting to mimic seasonal changes. There is quite a lot of light pollution at night, so reproduction out there is hit or miss.”
“There is actually a chance these larvae are from self fertilization or parthenogenesis, so we will have some genetic testing on them down the road to see if we actually had successful cross fertilization.”
The ridged cactus coral, relatively uncommon but striking in its beauty, had reproduced in a lab for what the aquarium says is the first time. More than a week later, two corals are still making larvae, said Keri O’Neil, senior coral scientist. [Tampa Bay Times]