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Scientists breed corals with goal of disease resistance

Brain corals rescued ahead of disease outbreak raise hopes for restoring genetic diversity and...
Brain corals rescued ahead of disease outbreak raise hopes for restoring genetic diversity and increasing disease resistance on Florida’s reefs.(The Florida Aquarium)
Updated: Jun. 2, 2021 at 3:43 PM CDT
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MIAMI, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - Scientists at the University of Miami and The Florida Aquarium have successfully bred grooved brain corals rescued from a disease outbreak and maintained in human care with wild corals that survived the disease.

The breakthrough restoration effort is the first time that cryogenically preserved sperm has been successfully used to crossbreed brain coral parents from different locations.

“This is the first attempt to use rescued corals to breed for increased resistance to stony coral tissue loss disease,” said UM Rosenstiel School coral biologist Andrew Baker, a professor of marine biology and ecology and director of the UM Coral Reef Futures Laboratory. “By cross-breeding the remaining wild brain corals with the rescued corals that were saved earlier, we hope to re-introduce some of the genetic diversity that would otherwise have been lost from Florida’s reefs. This diversity is essential to maintain ecosystem resilience to help Florida’s reefs survive into the future.”

The goal is to amplify the genetic diversity and disease resistance to help protect and restore Florida’s coral reefs.

Florida’s reefs have been depleted by stony coral tissue loss disease.

The disease has affected more than 20 coral species to date.

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