Earth Optimism: Coral Conservation Breakthrough

Smithsonian scientists and partners are playing matchmakers for corals. We’re now able to bolster coral genes of the same species that would otherwise remain apart because of their distinct locations to possibly produce offspring more resistant to disease and warming oceans.

Scientists from the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI) and partners in Florida and Curaçao have become the first to use cryopreserved (frozen) coral sperm to support gene migration of coral populations that would otherwise remain geographically and genetically isolated. Because live corals are difficult to move safely between locations for breeding, the technique provides an effective way for conservationists to mix coral genes from different populations with the aim of making offspring more resistant to bleaching and disease. “We have combined the best of coral cryopreservation science with the best of coral reproductive science, coral rearing and husbandry,” said Mary Hagedorn, SCBI research scientist and co-lead author on a paper about the results, which the research team presented at the Reef Futures Conference in Florida Dec. 12. “This process—which involved the engagement, time and goodwill of scores of people, agencies, volunteers and divers—holds tremendous possibility for coral conservation and restoration.”

Close-up of Mary Hagedorn superimposed on larger photo of coral reef

Mary Hagedorn is one of the world’s foremost experts on the preservation of coral reefs.

Read the paper: https://www.biorxiv.org/content/early…

Posted: 19 April 2019
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