See the cute coral babies giving scientists hope for reef restoration

Researchers at the Florida Aquarium see the coral-spawning breakthrough as a source of hope for "America's great barrier reef."

Amanda Kooser
Freelance writer Amanda C. Kooser covers gadgets and tech news with a twist for CNET. When not wallowing in weird gear and iPad apps for cats, she can be found tinkering with her 1956 DeSoto.
Amanda Kooser
Enlarge Image

This images shows the ridged cactus coral next to a close-up of a larva.

The Florida Aquarium

Scientists at the Florida Aquarium are celebrating a special moment in coral reproduction. Earlier this month, they witnessed the first spawning of ridged cactus coral in human care

An eye-opening video shows the action as the larvae floated free.

Coral reefs all over the world are dying. Climate change is a factor, but Florida's reefs have also been hit hard by stony coral tissue loss disease, which skeletonizes coral colonies. 

The larvae in the video are from healthy coral kept in laboratory conditions. The aquarium said this is the first time ridged cactus coral larvae have been photographed or measured. 

The tiny baby coral are able to swim right away. "They are a brooding coral, which means their sperm is released into the water, but their eggs are not, and fertilization and larval development occurs inside the parent coral," the aquarium explained in a release on Wednesday.

The Florida Reef Tract, sometimes referred to as "America's great barrier reef," covers a span of 360 miles (580 kilometers) and arcs along the Florida Keys. The Florida Aquarium is breeding coral through its coral conservation program. Some of the spawn are released back into the sea to help restore reef colonies.

"These advances give us hope that the round-the-clock work we are doing will make a difference to help conserve this species and save these animals from extinction," said senior coral scientist Keri O'Neil.

Mold Pigs, a Hairy Snail and Other Cool Things Trapped in Amber

See all photos
Watch this: A new tool in the fight to save coral reefs: Sound