Briefs: first bank of coral cells

US scientists have created the first bank of frozen coral cells, intended to preserve endangered coral species in Hawaii and protect their diversity. The bank so far contains frozen sperm and embryonic cells from mushroom coral and rice coral, but researchers intend to expand the cell library to include other Hawaiian coral species. The project is jointly conducted by the Smithsonian Institution and the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, on Coconut Island in Oahu. The frozen banked cells are viable, and the frozen material can thus be thawed in the near future or even 1000 years from now to restore a species or population. Some of the frozen sperm samples have already been thawed and used to fertilize coral eggs to produce developing coral larvae. According to the researchers, Hawaii's reefs are threatened by pollution and destructive practices including dynamite fishing. "Unless action is taken now, coral reefs and many of the animals that depend on them may cease to exist within the next 40 years, causing the first global extinction of a worldwide ecosystem during current history," they add.