Banking Elkhorn Coral for the Future

(c) USGS: Caroline Rogers

Apparently a researcher with the University of Alberta is building a sperm bank for Elkhorn coral (Acropora palmata).  This past summer Dr. Acker, a frozen tissues expert, joined a group of coral researchers during an elkhorn spawning event and attempted to freeze eggs, sperm, and larvae.  They were successful with the sperm, but it doesn’t appear that they were able to preserve eggs or larvae. 

My only real concern with this sperm bank is that packets were apparently collected from just one area of a reef and from only “thirty to forty Elkhorn individuals”.  As recently discovered, the genetic toolbox for Acropora species might be mightier than we think.  It would be a good idea to bank more populations to ensure that long term genetic viability is likewise preserved.  I’m also curious to know how effective these frozen sperm are when, well, thawed and brought back to life.  In fact, maybe we would better serve our corals to simply learn more about their population genetics for conservation.

Would you be shocked to know that this sperm bank isn’t the only one of its kind for frozen wildlife tissue?  Well, don’t be!  The San Diego Zoo has had the Frozen Zoo project for ages hosted through their center for Conservation and Research on Endangered Species (CRES).