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January 13, 2015

Hybrid coral in Miami gives hope for coral reefs everywhere

 

 

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The last several years have not been nice to the world’s coral reefs. In the warming climate coral have seemed to experience particular difficulty in maintaining their population. A hybrid coral in Miami, however, have displayed unique qualities that provide hope to coral reefs everywhere.

In 2010, Marine Biologist Colin Foord discovered a hybrid breed of coraltweet it

in Government Cut, just outside of Miami. He didn’t even recognize the unusual piece of sea life as coral when he first stumbled across it. During this time, Miami was experiencing a deadly cold front which wreaked havoc on the orange groves, iguanas and sea life. During this time more than 1 in 10 corals was lost. The shallow water corals in the Florida Keys were in grave danger. Foord feared his recently discovered hybrid coral would perish before they’d had the opportunity to study it.

Remarkably, the hybrid coral survived, barely noting the stress of the changing climate. Shortly after Foord’s discovery, the US Army Corps of Engineers stated they would be scraping the bottom of Government Cut, where Foord discovered this “supercoral”. At this, Foord and his friend Jared McKay set out to save the new coral and created a company called Coral Morphologic. The company began selling coral within the home aquarium market and identified film as a method of spotlighting the beauty of Miami’s corals. Foord and McKay were eventually granted permits to collect and transplant the corals from Government Cut and the Miami Coral Rescue Mission was born. The two transplanted most of the corals to an artificial reef about a mile away from Government Cut and the remaining corals are currently being studied and filmed in the lab of Coral Morphologic.

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Image by dep.state.fl.us (Left) , Image by Miami.edu (Center) , Image by Huffingtonpost (Right)

The coral of Miami has demonstrated extremely resilient survival skills, as opposed to many other coral reefs around the world that are barely hanging on. There is thought that transplanting these hybrid corals into other reefs could support newly adaptable reefs in the wild. These hybrid corals have adapted to the urban environment, becoming more tough and hardy. These new breeds of corals are adjusting to the changing climate, inspiring hope that other corals may also develop this same resiliency.

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