Saving Animals from Extinction (SAFE)
Corals are a part of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Saving Animals from Extinction (AZA SAFE) program.
Zoos and aquariums across the country are partnering to raise awareness for the conservation of threatened and endangered corals and the challenges they face in the wild like climate change.
All About Corals
Despite their plant-like appearance, corals are animals related to sea jellies and sea anemones, each with a mouth and a stomach. Large colonies of these tiny coral polyps build exoskeletons over hundreds or thousands of years to create coral reefs, which are some of the most diverse ecosystems in the world.
Corals can catch their food, such as plankton and small fishes, with stinging cells in their tentacles much like their jelly relatives. They also gain nutrition from tiny symbiotic algae inside them that use photosynthesis. When stressed, often as a response to rising ocean temperatures, corals expel these algae in a process called coral bleaching. The bone-white bleached corals are susceptible to starvation and disease, threatening the health of the reef ecosystem.
Why Protect Coral Reefs?
Climate change is the biggest threat to already-vulnerable corals worldwide. Shedd scientists are conducting pioneering research to boost coral thermal tolerance. Through genetic analysis of corals in the Caribbean, the team is identifying key genetic traits that allow naturally robust corals to survive warming waters.
Corals on the Move
Though adult corals are attached to the ocean floor, some can move to catch prey. Watch as this single polyp plate coral uses its flexible appendages to move a piece of food toward its mouth.
Boulder star coral
Finger leather coral
Kenya tree coral
Soft finger coral
Massive starlet coral
Toadstool leather coral