The coral, Homophyllia australis, endemic to the Great Barrier Reef, has long been a hobbyist favourite due to their large fleshy polyps and the incredible colour variation they can possess. Now this ionic species has been spawned and embryological development successfully documented thanks to the breakthrough by scientists at the Coral Spawning Lab.
The culmination of four years of dedicated research into the species reproduction offers a new hope for sustainable aquaculture to supply the aquarium trade.
“Homophyllia australis is a species that we’ve always wanted to work with due to its limited geographical range but high demand for the aquarium industry. The challenge of working with this species is that no information is available in the scientific literature about how, or when, it reproduces and so a systematic approach has been needed to unlock this iconic species’ secrets,” said Dr Jamie Craggs, co-founder of the Coral Spawning Lab.
The presence of both Oocytes (eggs) and spermatophore confirms for the first time that Homophyllia australis is a broadcast spawning species
Homophyllia australis is a coral species that may be susceptible to over-collection in the wild, according to Craggs. Using specially designed aquariums in the Coral Spawning Lab’s facilities, individuals were induced to spawn, and gametes (eggs and sperm) collected for fertilisation work. Following a short embryo development period coral larvae have been settled and juvenile corals are now growing out in their facilities. This breeding success adds an important species to the growing list of captive coral breeding efforts and with time is hoped can be expanded to increase the production.
For the first time the embryological development of Homophyllia australis is documented. A, polyps releasing oocytes and sperm, B-N embryological development over 3 days, O newly settled polyps. Scale B-O = 1mm
Over the next few years the team at the Coral Spawning Lab are working on new species to document and continue to develop approaches to increase the production efficiency of coral for both reef restoration and aquarium aquaculture.