Our biologists expected that moving the three large leather corals (Sarcophyton sp.) would be the most challenging move yet for the Philippine coral reef exhibit. In the years since they first arrived at Howard Street (where they lived in a 20,000-gallon coral reef tank), the coral colonies have grown considerably, making them rather awkward to handle. They had also become attached to some very heavy rocks, so before bringing them up to the surface to move, a biologist detached some of the heavier rocks, making the rest of the process more manageable.
To keep them comfortable, the corals were loaded into a transport container that was kept nice and moist throughout the trip. The individual coral polyps closed up to protect themselves, secreting a mucus to help conserve moisture during the transition.
Four hands are better than two when it comes to moving heavy, delicate living things, so the biologists worked in pairs to get them into their new 212,000-gallon home (above). Now the polyps are opening back up, and they are adjusting as expected. When the new Academy opens, you’ll see them in front of the largest underwater viewing window in the Philippine coral reef tank – they’re the ones that look like giant chanterelle mushrooms.