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Frozen Sperm Offer a Lifeline for Coral

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As corals go, Fungia is fairly reliable, usually releasing its sperm and eggs two days after the full moon. Today was Day 3. “Sometimes we get skunked,” she fretted.

A reproductive physiologist with the Smithsonian Institution, Dr. Hagedorn, 57, is building what is essentially a sperm bank for the world’s corals. She hopes her collection — gathered in recent years from corals in Hawaii, the Caribbean and Australia — will someday be used to restore and even rebuild damaged reefs.

In the Caribbean, high water temperatures, disease outbreaks, overfishing and other afflictions have already killed 80 percent of the region’s coral, reducing many reefs to seaweed and rubble.

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