HULL aquarium The Deep is taking part in an international coral conservation project, and creating its own coral “life support system”.
A member of staff has just returned from the Pacific island of Guam, where he witnessed a massive coral-spawning event.
Described as an “amazing feat of nature”, it happens once a year over two consecutive nights after a full moon.
The coral release their gametes (sperm and eggs) which float to the surface where fertilisation takes place and larvae are formed.
The larvae then swim to the bottom, attach themselves to rocks and become tiny polyps which eventually form coral.
Guam is surrounded by coral reefs, some of which have been badly damaged by the tourism industry, although there is also a large area of healthy coral for the team to work from.
To maximise the reproduction of the coral during this process, the team collected gametes to take back to Guam University for monitoring and propagation.
The corals are cared for in marine labs until they are mature enough to be released back into the ocean.
Seb Prajsnar, coral expert at The Deep, said: “This was an amazing trip which allowed me to participate in important coral reef conservation and learn more about vital breeding procedures which, in the future may be replicated here at The Deep.
“Some of the corals in Guam have been badly damaged by the tourism industry and in certain areas, they are full of rubbish.
“What people don’t realise is that they are the most diverse ecosystems in the sea, not just something pretty.
“If there is no coral, then the food chain it supports will die off.”
He added: “We are currently just putting the final touches to a purpose-built coral life support system which will be used to further study coral, increasing our knowledge and understanding of this amazing animal.”