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New discovery positions Smithsonian to bolster genetic diversity among cheetahs
Date:8/12/2011

Crosier estimates that SCBI will try an embryo transfer within the next two years and said that if it works, it is feasible that someday researchers could do this with wild cheetahs to continue to infuse the population in human care with new genes.

Paper co-author, Pierre Comizzoli, a vertebrate cryobiologist at SCBI, has been collecting and freezing immature eggs and ovarian tissues from felids for the SCBI's Genome Resource Bank, a frozen repository of biological materials that includes sperm and embryos, tissues, blood products and DNA. Researchers are currently able to produce embryos from fresh eggs, but aim to do the same with frozen eggs.

"The work on freezing eggs and ovarian tissues will offer yet another option to preserve the fertility of females, especially long after they are dead," Comizzoli said. "These approaches also allow us to to boost the number of offspring that can be produced from a single individual."

SCBI is one of five centers participating in research to boost the cheetah population in human care as part of the Conservation Centers for Species Survival, also known as C2S2. All five centers collectively manage more than 25,000 acres of land devoted to the survival of threatened species with special needs (including those requiring large land areas, natural group sizes and minimal public disturbance). All five centers maintain a cheetah breeding facility as part of their long-term commitment to cheetah breeding and research. The Smithsonian's National Zoo's Front Royal facility currently houses 10 adult cheetahs and seven cubs. The National Zoo houses three adults.

Cheetahs, the fastest animals on land, are struggling to outpace threats to their survival in the wild. As the result of human conflict, hunting and habitat loss, there are only an estimated 7,500 to 10,000 cheetahs left in the wild. The International Union for Conservation of Nature considers cheetahs a vulnerable species.


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Contact: Lindsay Renick Mayer
202-633-3081
Smithsonian
Source:Eurekalert  

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