In the cramped lab at Mote Marine Laboratory’s Tropical Research Lab on Summerland Key in the Florida Keys, Dr. Gretchen Goodbody-Gringley and her team saw firsthand the effects of Corexit 9500 chemical dispersant on the settlement and survival of coral larvae. It wasn’t pretty.
Two corals were selected for the experiments: mustard hill coral (Porites asteroides), and mountainous star coral (Montastraea faveola).
Montastraea (see right) is of particular interest because it is one of the corals that populates the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary (NMS) located in the northwestern Gulf, an area close to the BP oil spill. But both corals can be found throughout the Florida Keys NMS which was spared a direct hit and is the subject of much “what if” research.
“We chose the mustard hill because it is a brooder,” said Goodbody-Gringley. “It goes through internal fertilization and releases mature larvae into the water so the larvae are presumably able to settle and start forming into adult colonies immediately after release.”
“Star coral is a broadcaster. It releases sperm and eggs into the water column which then fertilize and the larvae develop in the water. Broadcasters are generally thought to be more fragile than the brooders because larvae have to develop in the water, so they’re exposed to the elements,” she said.
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