October 24, 2020

This woman is building a sperm bank for coral reefs so we can revive them once they die

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3044106-inline-i-2-this-woman-is-building-a-sperm-bank-for-millions-of-coral-so-one-day-we-can-regrow-all-the-c 3044106-inline-i-3-this-woman-is-building-a-sperm-bank-for-millions-of-coral-so-one-day-we-can-regrow-all-the-c 3044106-inline-p-1-this-woman-is-building-a-sperm-bank-for-millions-of-coral-so-one-day-we-can-regrow-all-the-c 3044106-poster-p-2-this-woman-is-building-a-sperm-bank-for-millions-of-coral-so-one-day-we-can-regrow-all-the-cFrom Fast Company

As it stands, things don’t look good for the world’s coral. We’ve lost 40% of the world’s reefs already, and every forecast shows the situation getting worse. As well as traditional threats like overfishing and coastal development, corals now have to contend with climate change, which not only warms the water but also makes it more acidic.

That’s why Mary Hagedorn thinks we need to move beyond traditional conservation efforts to something more radical: artificial reproduction. Hagedorn, a marine scientist with the Smithsonian Institution, is building the world’s largest repository of coral sperm (and soon coral eggs and embryos) in hopes of one day reconstructing species from scratch and replacing what we’ve lost.

To some, that might seem like an ambitious and perhaps unnecessary undertaking. But Hagedorn, who’s based in Hawaii, argues that coral reefs play a special part in the ocean and require all the effort we can muster. For one, reefs are home to a quarter of all ocean creatures and help maintain biodiversity. They also provide people protection against coastal surges and boost marine tourism. The Great Barrier Reef alone is said to generate about $6 billion for Australia’s economy.

“If coral reefs fail around the world, we have no idea how that ripple effect will impact the rest of the oceans,” she says. “And healthy oceans are really important to our survival.”

Coral—a unique form of life that is part animal, part vegetable, and part mineral—is capable of reproducing both asexually and sexually. The simplest way is to snap off a piece and regrow it, like you were taking a cutting from the garden. But it’s not the best way, Hagedorn says. When you clone a plant, you’re simply reproducing it as it is, not breeding it in some new genetic form that’s potentially better.

“You can get more coverage, but you can [run] into problems, especially if diseases break out. One disease can devastate all the work you’ve done,” she says. “Having things that are produced sexually is often better, because you can throw the genetic dice and possibly a new adaptation will come along.”

For example, some years ago, staghorn coral fused with elkhorn coral to produce a new species called Acropora prolifera, which is now prevalent in the Caribbean. That’s good, because the hybrid is more heat-tolerant and surge-resistant than either of the varieties would be on its own.

Hagedorn has frozen the sperm of 11 coral species so far, scooping up reef spawn in Hawaii, Australia, and the Caribbean. She plans to capture another four this summer. In most places, the spawns happen only once a year, after a full moon, which doesn’t provide much of a window.

She can already use the sperm to cross-pollinate eggs in the water and increase diversity that way. But the larger goal is to grow coral in the laboratory using prefrozen versions of all the materials required. That includes eggs and embryos, and algae, which play a role in managing the environment where coral live. Hagedorn hopes to start freezing eggs this summer using a new technique borrowed from human clinics.

“There was a leap in technology with human eggs. We can now freeze 90% or greater. Ten years ago, it was less than 10%. We recently applied the same technology, and it seems to be working,” she says.

That’s not to say we shouldn’t also protect fragile coral systems by, for example, promoting responsible tourism. But Hagedorn’s work could offer an insurance policy. If all else fails, we should have her banks of reproductive material to fall back on.

For more on this story go to: http://www.fastcoexist.com/3044106/this-woman-is-building-a-sperm-bank-for-coral-reefs-so-we-can-revive-them-once-they-die

Related story:

Award-winning video speeds up time to show you coral like never before

Screen Shot 2015-04-04 at 2.13.41 PM Screen Shot 2015-04-04 at 2.13.56 PMBy Jessica Orwig From Business Insider

Even if you’ve swum amongst the underwater world of the Great Barrier Reef, chances are you’ve never seen coral like in the award-winning video “Slow Life.”
Because coral moves on a much slower time-scale compared to our fast-paced world, Australian-based nature cinematographer and artist Daniel Stoupin had to take hundreds of thousands of photos of the same coral and sponges over nearly 9 months to show how these vibrant marine creatures grow and behave in their natural environment.

All of that hard work payed off last year when Stoupin’s video was awarded the Imaginal Visual Science Award in the 2014 Imagine Science films competition.

Coral are spineless marine animals that generally grow in dense, compact colonies. They begin when a soft-bodied creature, called a polyp, attaches itself to a rock on the sea floor. After that, the polyp can reproduce into thousands of identical clones, meaning they’re genetically identical.

Polyps look like miniature flowers, but don’t be fooled by their seemingly innocent appearance.

They are carnivorous creatures that use tiny tentacles to snatch free-floating crustaceans and fish larvae that float too close. Polyps are especially active at night, which is when they come out to feed. It’s an incredible sight to watch them, quite literally, bloom to life:

Although an individual polyp is only a few centimeters in size at most, coral reefs are the largest biological structures on Earth. But they don’t just grow over night.

Reefs are actually the result of many individual coral colonies living together harmoniously. The coral reefs we see today actually began from individual coral colonies that started growing over 50 million years ago — well before humans ever walked the Earth.

These individual organisms are masters at surviving.

The most impressive thing about Stoupin’s epic video is that all of the colors in his shots are real “and not exaggerated or digitally enhanced,” he writes in the video description on Vimeo.

Mother Nature certainly has an artistic side:
On his blog, Stoupin writes a more detailed description about why he initiated this project and ultimately what he hopes viewers take away from it.

“The Great Barrier Reef is in grave danger and you have the power and finances to change its fate instead of scavenging what’s left of it.”

Check out the full video below and make sure to go full screen on this one. It also comes complete with an epic soundtrack.

IMAGES Vimeo coral Daniel Stoupin

For more on this story and video go to: http://www.businessinsider.com/watch-coral-reefs-in-fast-motion-2015-4#ixzz3WMxPBekB

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