UC Davis Today
Saving endangered white abalone
In research that incorporates food, sex and danger, scientists at UC Davis Bodega Marine Laboratory have achieved the first successful captive spawning of the endangered white abalone in nearly a decade.
The work may be the white abalone’s last chance at avoiding extinction.
White abalones have the bad luck of being both reportedly delicious and difficult to breed. Broadcast spawners, they reproduce by releasing their eggs and sperm into the water.
UC Davis Bodega Marine Laboratory is leading the field with a white abalone captive breeding program, which began in 2010.
Researchers encourage the mollusks to breed in an advanced facility that allows scientists to use mood-setting enhancements, like optimum lighting and temperature controls, to cue the abalones to reproduce.
“We’re at a desperate time because all of the population models suggest that white abalone will be completely extinct within 10 to 15 years if we don’t have some sort of program like this for placing them back into the wild and trying to restore these populations,” says Gary Cherr, director of the UC Davis Bodega Marine Laboratory and principal investigator of the captive breeding program.
Year-old juvenile abalone find shade under PVC pipes in the laboratory sea water tanks. Photos by Karin Higgins and Kristin Aquilino, both of UC Davis.