London, Dec 3: Scientists have launched a plan to create a ‘fertility clinic’ in order to breed endangered coral.
They want to harvest billions of sperm and eggs, and then freeze them, in an effort to save corals in the World Heritage-listed reef from extinction.
The world’s largest living organism has shrunk by about half over the past 30 years as a result of climate change, ocean acidification, pollution and crown-of-thorns starfish, which prey on coral, the Independent reported.
Dr. Mary Hagedorn from the US’s Smithsonian Institution, who perfected the techniques while working with coral in Hawaii, is liaising with Australian colleagues to deploy those techniques in the cause of conservation.
Researchers from the Australian Institute of Marine Science helped to gather samples for the DNA bank, which has been set up at Western Plains Zoo in the town of Dubbo, in the New South Wales outback, 250 miles from the sea.
If all goes according to plan, the genetic material will be thawed and used to grow new coral which will then be reintroduced into the wild and transplanted back into the ocean to help restore and repopulate damaged reefs.
Some of the samples will be used for research aimed at improving coral’s resilience and ability to adapt to changing conditions, while some will remain in storage indefinitely for many years.
According to Australia’s ABC radio, Dr Hagedorn said that he has already cryogenically preserved coral sperm and embryonic cells in Hawaii and said that they put them into cryo-tubes, and then they float them on a little lake of liquid nitrogen that freezes them at about 20 degrees per minute, down to minus 196 Celsius.
He added that then they immerse them in liquid nitrogen and then put them in a dry shipper container. (ANI)