The Student News Site of Stephen Decatur High School

CRISPR saving coral reefs

May 16, 2018

Photo Courtesy of flickr.com

Photo Courtesy of flickr.com

 

In recent years, the health of the earth’s coral reefs has been seriously declining due to climate change, coral bleaching, and pollution in various oceans. 27 percent of the world’s coral reefs have already succumbed to these vicious changes. Coral reefs are extremely important ecosystems that sustain aquatic life, and with their demise, the extinction of aquatic life is prevalent.

Luckily, there is a piece of technology that has been developed to help regulate the loss of the coral reefs. CRISPR-Cas9 is a gene editing tool that has been used on a new spawn of coral. The machine can modify the coral’s genotype so that it is stronger and more likely to survive the difficult conditions that have caused the death of the species in the past. Biologists hope to gain more information on the development and functions of the coral in order to improve their resilience against these environmental changes.

At first, there was a complication. Corals are selective breeders; meaning they only reproduce once a year, aligned with the rise of a full moon. This gives researchers a short amount of time to carry out the process. However, the biologists were able to pinpoint when and where the coral would reproduce and conducted the experiment successfully.

The study resulted in a gene being edited, and this resulting type of coral will soon cultivate a new colonization that will able to withstand such harmful environmental conditions.

While many have expressed their worry that a new species of super coral is evolving from this process, biologists have assured these people that their goal is solely to protect and better understand the biology of the animal. 

There are so many open questions about which genes help corals thrive in these vibrant and changing ecosystems.”

— Marie Strader

Marine biologist at the University of California Marie Strader stated, “There are so many open questions about which genes help corals thrive in these vibrant and changing ecosystems.” Strader co-led the coral research.

Although there is still a long way to go to fully restore these ancient animals, all hope is not lost (foxnews.com and geneticliteracyproject.org and earthobservatory.nasa.gov).

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