Breeding Under the Microscope (and Under Water)

Scientists hope that two new breeding techniques could be used to help endangered underwater species.

First up, the most unusual technique: scientists at Tokyo University of Marine Science and Technology have successfully used salmon to breed trout. Confused? The technique involved sterilizing newly hatched salmon embryos, then implanting them with trout reproductive cells. Once the salmon grew old enough, they actually bred and produced trout, which in turn have since bred and produced their own second generation of fish.

It's hoped that this technique could be used to restock other endangered fish species, and to breed big fish like bluefin tuna in smaller tanks.

Meanwhile, in the U.S., scientists working for the National Zoo have been collecting Elkhorn coral gametes, freezing some of them with a technique called cyropreservation, and artificially inseminating the rest to breed the coral in an artificial environment. It's not an easy task. Of the 12,000 coral larvae collected, only 158 settled to form the millimeter-sized coral polyps that would eventually grow into a coral reef. The scientists hope that this coral can be grown in a lab and then reintroduced to the wild, and that the frozen coral sperm and eggs can form a genome resource bank to help preserve the species' genetic diversity.

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