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Mote Marine scientists discover breakthrough in coral reef restoration

SARASOTA, Fla. — For years, Mote Marine scientists have been working on a way to restore dying coral reefs.

“As devastating as it is for the world to witness 50 to 100-year-old coral heads dying due to bleaching and coral disease, there is also great hope that science brings,” said Dr. Michael Crosby, Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium CEO.

“What we do is we take large corals that grow really slowly if left alone and we fragment them into very small pieces that we call micro fragments,” said Dr. Erinn Muller, science director at Mote’s Coral Reef Lab.

Small pieces of the corals, like mountainous star coral, a staple in coral reefs, are able to grow up to 50 times faster in the nursery at Mote’s reef lab.

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Massive corals normally take decades to reproduce. But scientists at Mote recently discovered that the corals they grew in their lab and transplanted onto a reef near the Florida Keys, are reproducing in only 5 years.

“It’s an incredible breakthrough, for the first time ever to be documented in the real world out on the reef, the ability of transplanted coral to be resilient, not only to hurricanes and disease but ready to become parents again in just a few short years,” said Crosby.

Mote says this is a critical milestone for the entire field of reproduction and growth of coral reefs which plays a major part in the overall health of our ecosystem.

“To help bring back our coral reefs from the brink of extinction,” said Crosby.

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