New study shows coral reef fish do not mind 3D-printed corals

University of Delaware –

Natural disasters such as hurricanes often leave devastation in their wake. Residents living in affected areas are sometimes displaced or require temporary shelter while their homes — or even neighborhoods — are repaired or rebuilt.

But what if you are a fish and your home is a coral reef?

Researchers across the globe are searching for ways to help endangered reefs, and the animals that live there, withstand or recover from weather events, including bleaching and storms that can occur with increasingly warmer water temperatures.

One idea is to use 3D-printed coral models to replace or supplement coral reef systems that have been affected.

New research by the University of Delaware’s Danielle Dixson and UD alumnus Emily Ruhl has shown that 3D-printed objects do not impact the behavior of coral-associated damselfish or the survival of a settling stony coral.

Further, the study demonstrated that fish showed no preference between materials used to 3D-print artificial corals, opening the door to using environmentally friendly materials, such as biodegradable cornstarch instead of plastic.

With mounting concerns about plastic pollution in the marine environment, it is timely evidence that can support environmentally conscious decisions about what is put in the ocean.

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