Cold-Water Coral in Aquaria: Advances and Challenges. A Focus on the Mediterranean

autun.purser [ at ]


Knowledge on basic biological functions of organisms is essential to understand not only the role they play in the ecosystems but also to manage and protect their populations. The study of biological processes, such as growth, reproduction and physiology, which can be approached in situ or by collecting specimens and rearing them in aquaria, is particularly challenging for deep-sea organisms like cold-water corals. Field experimental work and monitoring of deep-sea populations is still a chimera. Only a handful of research institutes or companies has been able to install in situ marine observatories in the Mediterranean Sea or elsewhere, which facilitate a continuous monitoring of deep-sea ecosystems. Hence, today’s best way to obtain basic biological information on these organisms is (1) working with collected samples and analysing them post-mortem and / or (2) cultivating corals in aquaria in order to monitor biological processes and investigate coral behaviour and physiological responses under different experimental treatments. The first challenging aspect is the collection process, which implies the use of oceanographic research vessels in most occasions since these organisms inhabit areas between ca. 150 m to more than 1000 m depth, and specific sampling gears. The next challenge is the maintenance of the animals on board (in situations where cruises may take weeks) and their transport to home laboratories. Maintenance in the home laboratories is also extremely challenging since special conditions and set-ups are needed to conduct experimental studies to obtain information on the biological processes of these animals. The complexity of the natural environment from which the corals were collected cannot be exactly replicated within the laboratory setting; a fact which has led some researchers to question the validity of work and conclusions drawn from such undertakings. It is evident that aquaria experiments cannot perfectly reflect the real environmental and trophic conditions where these organisms occur, but: (1) in most cases we do not have the possibility to obtain equivalent in situ information and (2) even with limitations, they produce relevant information about the biological limits of the species, which is especially valuable when considering potential future climate change scenarios. This chapter includes many contributions from different authors and is envisioned as both to be a practical “handbook” for conducting cold-water coral aquaria work, whilst at the same time offering an overview on the cold-water coral research conducted in Mediterranean laboratories equipped with aquaria infrastructure. Experiences from Atlantic and Pacific laboratories with extensive experience with cold-water coral work have also contributed to this chapter, as their procedures are valuable to any researcher interested in conducting experimental work with cold-water corals in aquaria. It was impossible to include contributions from all laboratories in the world currently working experimentally with cold-water corals in the laboratory, but at the conclusion of the chapter we attempt, to our best of our knowledge, to supply a list of several laboratories with operational cold-water coral aquaria facilities.

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DOI 10.1007/978-3-319-91608-8_38

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Orejas, C. , Taviani, M. , Ambroso, S. , Andreou, V. , Bilan, M. , Bo, M. , Brooke, S. , Buhl-Mortensen, P. , Cordes, E. , Dominguez-Carrió, C. , Ferrier-Pagès, C. , Godinho, A. , Gori, A. , Grinyó, J. , Gutiérrez-Zárate, C. , Hennige, S. , Jiménez, C. , Larsson, A. I. , Lartaud, F. , Lunden, J. , Maier, C. , Maier, S. R. , Movilla, J. , Murray, F. , Peru, E. , Purser, A. , Rakka, M. , Reynaud, S. , Roberts, J. M. , Siles, P. , Strömberg, S. M. , Thomsen, L. , van Oevelen, D. , Veiga, A. and Carreiro-Silva, M. (2019): Cold-Water Coral in Aquaria: Advances and Challenges. A Focus on the Mediterranean , In: Mediterranean Cold-Water Corals: Past, Present and Future, Book, Springer . doi: 10.1007/978-3-319-91608-8_38

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