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Hybrid Fused Staghorn Disease and Recovery Survey (September 2014)


A fluorescence photograph of the hybrid fused staghorn coral.

It was the discovery of a hybrid fused staghorn coral living on a granite boulder beneath the shadows of a luxury condo that initially sparked our interest in the resilient corals that are taking advantage of Miami’s underwater infrastructure. Colin first presented this coral to the public for TEDxMIA in 2011 in a talk titled ‘A Hybrid Future – The Corals of Miami’. But with the Army Corps’ Deep Dredge of Government Cut happening just a stones throw from where this coral lives, we have been particularly concerned about the health of this coral. Not only are Miami’s corals being inundated with excessive dredge silt, they’re also dealing with the same water conditions that have induced an alarming percentage of corals to bleach across South Florida’s reefs.

With dredge ship ‘55’ working so closely to the hybrid coral over the summer, it was not until the end of August that we were finally able to safely check up on the coral’s health. To our dismay, we discovered necrotic tissue beginning to advance down from the upper growth margin of the colony (seen as the white portion where it attaches to the rock). We fanned off the coral in an effort to cleanse it, hoping it might stem the advance of the disease, but ultimately we were left not knowing exactly what type of infection it had, or how fast it might spread over the colony. However, as is evidenced by the video taken 2 weeks later, the coral has managed to have overcome the infection. Better yet, it had advanced no further than where we had cleaned it. For the coral to overcome an infection amidst the myriad of stresses it has endured this summer testifies to its resilience. To ensure that a disaster doesn’t befall this unique coral, we strongly advocate that a small portion of this coral should be fragmented such that it can be grown-out in both captive and wild nurseries to ensure its continued survival. It is our ultimate goal to establish an ‘urban coral’ nursery here in Miami such that this hybrid (and other corals) can be maricultured in-situ for research, cloning, and eventual transplantation. For more on the hybrid coral, take a look at recent articles from Grist and Science Friday.

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