Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Saving Microscopic Threatened Species

Date:
October 2, 2007
Source:
Smithsonian
Summary:
The Smithsonian's National Zoo recently acquired 12,000 new animals -- microscopic Elkhorn coral larvae harvested by National Zoo scientists in Puerto Rico -- as part of an international collaborative program to raise the threatened species. National Zoo scientists hope to one day return the animals, once they are grown, to their wild ocean habitat.

Animal keeper Michael Henley regulates the water flow in a coral larvae rearing device developed by scientist. Using 75 feet of specially designed flexible PVC piping that could be bent around the coral so as not to harm it, the team created a water-flow system that allowed water from the ocean to continuously flow in and out of the coral larvae enclosure located in the beachfront laboratory. Keeping the water fresh and at a constant temperature is essential for corals that flourish in stable environments.
Credit: Photo by Manon Laterveer de Beer

The Smithsonian's National Zoo recently acquired 12,000 new animals--microscopic Elkhorn coral larvae harvested by National Zoo scientists in Puerto Rico--as part of an international collaborative program to raise the threatened species. National Zoo scientists hope to one day return the animals, once they are grown, to their wild ocean habitat.

In August, Zoo Reproductive Scientist Dr. Mary Hagedorn and Invertebrates Keeper Mike Henley traveled to Puerto Rico with marine scientists involved with SECORE (SExual COral REproduction) to collect and artificially inseminate coral. Hagedorn is pioneering the cyropreservation (freezing, storing and thawing) of coral sperm and eggs. Working in collaboration with SECORE, she is trying to create a genome resource bank, which will help preserve the genetic diversity of coral.

Hagedorn, Henley and the team captured spawning coral gametes in nets during night dives and transferred them back to their laboratory on the beach for research and artificial insemination--often working until 3 a.m. Using 75 feet of specially designed flexible PVC piping that could be bent around the coral so as not to harm it, the team created a water-flow system that allowed water from the ocean to continuously flow in and out of the coral larvae enclosure located in the beachfront laboratory. Keeping the water fresh and at a constant temperature is essential for corals that flourish in stable environments.

"Conservation of a delicate underwater species is always a challenge," said Hagedorn, "We achieved some important milestones this year, including learning more about the larvae rearing process, and we were able to cryopreserve the endangered coral sperm. Given more research, this technique may become instrumental in helping re-establish healthy coral populations in the Caribbean."

Meanwhile, at the Zoo's Invertebrates Exhibit, keeper Mike Henley has been coaxing the 12,000 coral larvae to settle in a specially designed tank. The 90-gallon, salt-water tank features high-wattage lights and a custom-built surge device that mimics the movement of the surf in the coral's native Caribbean habitat.

From the original 12,000, 158 larvae settled onto specially designed tiles and formed polyps--millimeter-sized corals that could eventually grow to be 10 feet wide. Henley will continue to count the coral throughout the next few months. The small percentage of coral that takes hold as a polyp underscores the difficult and delicate task of rearing a fragile species in captivity.

"We hope we can establish a captive population of Elkhorn that can be reintroduced to the wild," said Henley. "If this year's collection does not meet the criteria, hopefully future SECORE 'recruits' will yield possible candidates."

Coral reefs are dying from causes largely due to human influences. In the Caribbean populations of the massive Elkhorn coral (Acropora palmate), which historically have been the primary and most ecologically important reef-building coral, have declined from 90 to 99 percent since the mid 1980s. As a result, it is one of the first corals listed as "threatened" under the Endangered Species Act.

As many aquarium enthusiasts already know, coral can be easily reared in captivity--new colonies can grow from broken fragments of parent colonies. Those new colonies, however, are clones with the same genetic makeup as the parent coral.

For this reason, the National Zoo's work with the artificial insemination and captive breeding of coral as a member of SECORE is essential to fighting its extinction. Genetic diversity is key in any species bred for eventual release into the wild. The more genetically diverse a population, the greater its chance of surviving various environmental stresses.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Smithsonian. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Smithsonian. "Saving Microscopic Threatened Species." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 2 October 2007. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/09/070926150518.htm>.
Smithsonian. (2007, October 2). Saving Microscopic Threatened Species. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 21, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/09/070926150518.htm
Smithsonian. "Saving Microscopic Threatened Species." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/09/070926150518.htm (accessed August 21, 2014).

Share This




More Earth & Climate News

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Unsustainable Elephant Poaching Killed 100K In 3 Years

Unsustainable Elephant Poaching Killed 100K In 3 Years

Newsy (Aug. 20, 2014) Poachers have killed 100,000 elephants between 2010 and 2012, as the booming ivory trade takes its toll on the animals in Africa. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Charter Schools Alter Post-Katrina Landscape

Charter Schools Alter Post-Katrina Landscape

AP (Aug. 20, 2014) Nine years after Hurricane Katrina, charter schools are the new reality of public education in New Orleans. The state of Louisiana took over most of the city's public schools after the killer storm in 2005. (Aug. 20) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Green Power Blooms as Japan Unveils 'hydrangea Solar Cell'

Green Power Blooms as Japan Unveils 'hydrangea Solar Cell'

AFP (Aug. 19, 2014) A solar cell that resembles a flower is offering a new take on green energy in Japan, where one scientist is searching for renewables that look good. Duration: 01:29 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Disquieting Times for Malaysia's 'fish Listeners'

Disquieting Times for Malaysia's 'fish Listeners'

AFP (Aug. 19, 2014) Malaysia's last "fish listeners" -- practitioners of a dying local art of listening underwater to locate their quarry -- try to keep the ancient technique alive in the face of industrial trawling and the depletion of stocks. Duration: 02:29 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins