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Preserving sperm vital to saving 'snot otter' salamanders
Date:8/4/2010

is a global model for the genetic management of threatened amphibians," Browne said.

McGinnity, the Nashville Zoo's curator of ectotherms, initiated the project so the frozen salamander sperm can produce hellbenders genetically adapted to their local environments and fit for restocking. Browne developed the cryopreservation protocols, implemented by Nofs an MSU veterinary graduate and veterinary services director at the Nashville Zoo and her colleague Michael Kirk with captive animals from the zoo. Agnew and Carleton are testing the frozen salamander sperm to ensure the species can be resurrected, if needed.

"This process of cryopreservation is very species specific," Agnew said. "It's a lot like cooking; each species needs its own ingredients and formula. We're basically applying modified fish technologies to amphibians."

So far, the team has seen some promising results: Early tests show researchers have been successful in keeping frozen sperm alive for six months, which indicates the sperm could survive for hundreds of years in cold storage. That will allow the team to establish a collaborative gene banking program for the creature.

"Dr. Agnew and Dr. Carleton's expertise and equipment were invaluable in helping us validate and document the results of our initial cryopreservation trials with the hellbender semen," Nofs said.

As part of the project, the research team also is studying the comparative structure of hellbender sperm using electron photomicrographs, in collaboration with the MSU Center for Advanced Microscopy. This will allow scientists to learn more about the characteristics of the unique amphibian and to ensure its survival.


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Contact: Jason Cody
codyja@msu.edu
517-432-0924
Michigan State University
Source:Eurekalert  

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