30 Nov 2011

Great Barrier Reef coral preserved in 'frozen zoo'

8:45 pm on 30 November 2011

Samples of sperm from two species of coral from Australia's Great Barrier Reef have been taken to what is being called a frozen zoo.

It is part of an imaginative plan to try to protect one of the world's greatest living treasures.

During the recent spring spawning of the coral, 70 billion sperm samples and 1.5 billion embryo cells were collected off the east Australian coast to be taken to a zoo in Dubbo, New South Wales.

There the samples are stored in liquid nitrogen where they will remain frozen but alive for decades, meaning they could be used to restore one of the world's the fragile ecosystems.

The technique for storing the coral was developed in the Caribbean and used on coral reefs in Hawaii, but it is the first time it has been used on the Great Barrier Reef, which is the only living organism that is visible from space.