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The Force is strong in Horniman baby corals

The team from our Aquarium have settled our newly spawned baby corals onto Star Wars models, and found they ‘prefer’ characters from the good side of the Force, rather than the dark side.

  • The Force is strong in Horniman baby corals, Our baby corals do not fear the Dark Side
    Our baby corals do not fear the Dark Side

The coral ‘recruits’ – the scientific name for coral larvae that have grown big enough to be seen with the naked eye – have settled more densely on models of the Millennium Falcon, R2D2 and C3PO, than on models of Darth Vader, the Death Star and an AT-AT Walker.

C3PO proved the most popular, so perhaps ‘coral’ is among the 6 million forms of communication he’s fluent in. Most corals shunned Darth Vader, apart from a rogue one (or two) that have settled on his mouth, perhaps in an attempt to silence that ominous breathing. And while the Millennium Falcon proved very attractive to the corals, the Death Star didn't seem such a good prospect – maybe they've had a peak at the plans?

  • The Force is strong in Horniman baby corals, Very few corals have settled on the Death Star models
    Very few corals have settled on the Death Star models

  • The Force is strong in Horniman baby corals, Our baby coral much prefer to settle on the Millenium Falcon
    Our baby coral much prefer to settle on the Millenium Falcon

The models are made of a special concrete-type mix, set into ice cube moulds, and then conditioned with an algae that gives a biological cue to the coral larvae to settle.

Our Aquarium Keeper Jamie Craggs, says: ‘Whenever we want larvae to settle and grow into new coral specimens, we need to provide them with a hard, textured surface. My two sons had these moulds at home, and I couldn’t resist using them and seeing which ones the corals settled on. Obviously I’m delighted our baby corals haven’t all gone to the dark side. Alongside our other, rather more scientifically rigorous, successes to date, this is good news for Project Coral.’

The spawning and settling is part of the Horniman’s Project Coral research, which is investigating captive coral reproduction to help preserve wild coral reefs for future generations.