BBC Earth (Asia) - - Science -

With the right con­di­tions, some coral species can be in­duced to spawn in the lab.

1 Reef-build­ing Acro­p­ora coral can be in­duced to spawn in tanks. They re­lease bun­dles of sperm and eggs, which float to the sur­face of the wa­ter.

2 Each bun­dle con­tains around 10 eggs and thou­sands of sperm.

3 Spawn­ing can be pre­dicted and lasts for just 15 min­utes. The bun­dles are scooped out of the wa­ter in a cup.

4 The mix­ture is stirred and the bun­dles break apart. The lipid-rich eggs float on the sur­face, whilst the sperm sink, swim and turn the wa­ter milky.

6 The sex cells from one colony (black cups) are mixed with those from an un­re­lated, ge­net­i­cally dis­tinct colony (blue cups).

6 Once the eggs are fer­tilised, the cells will start di­vid­ing to cre­ate an em­bryo. Each em­bryo will even­tu­ally be­come a larva called a plan­ula.

7 Plan­u­lae are transferred into a set­tle­ment tank. They sink and at­tach to spe­cially pre­pared tiles where they be­gin to grow into coral polyps with mouths and ten­ta­cles. A few weeks later, zoox­an­thel­lae are added to the tank, which the corals in­cor­po­rate into their cells.

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