Assisted gene flow using cryopreserved sperm in critically endangered coral

Mary Hagedorn, Christopher A. Page, Keri L. O'Neil, Daisy M. Flores, Lucas Tichy, Trinity Conn, Valérie F. Chamberland, Claire Lager, Nikolas Zuchowicz, Kathryn Lohr, Harvey Blackburn, Tali Vardi, Jennifer Moore, Tom Moore, Iliana B. Baums, Mark J.A. Vermeij, Kristen L. Marhaver

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Assisted gene flow (AGF) is a conservation intervention to accelerate species adaptation to climate change by importing genetic diversity into at-risk populations. Corals exemplify both the need for AGF and its technical challenges; corals have declined in abundance, suffered pervasive reproductive failures, and struggled to adapt to climate change, yet mature corals cannot be easily moved for breeding, and coral gametes lose viability within hours. Here, we report the successful demonstration of AGF in corals using cryopreserved sperm that was frozen for 2 to 10 y. We fertilized Acropora palmata eggs from the western Caribbean (Curaçao) with cryopreserved sperm from genetically distinct populations in the eastern and central Caribbean (Florida and Puerto Rico, respectively). We then confirmed interpopulation parentage in the Curaçao-Florida offspring using 19,696 single-nucleotide polymorphism markers. Thus, we provide evidence of reproductive compatibility of a Caribbean coral across a recognized barrier to gene flow. The 6-mo survival of AGF offspring was 42%, the highest ever achieved in this species, yielding the largest wildlife population ever raised from cryopreserved material. By breeding a critically endangered coral across its range without moving adults, we show that AGF using cryopreservation is a viable conservation tool to increase genetic diversity in threatened marine populations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere2110559118
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Volume118
Issue number38
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 21 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General

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