Should we have cloned rare tortoise Lonesome George?Jun-29-2012
The recent death of Lonesome George, the famed Galapagos tortoise believed to be the last representative of his subspecies, has many experts wondering how we should try to save other endangered and at-risk animals.
Cloning is one option. While cloning methods for reptiles are not as advanced as those for mammals, scientists also say they face other incredible obstacles.
"At the most, I could envision one male turtle of this subspecies cloned in future or maybe two males, but where are you going to get a female?" asked Martha Gomez, a senior scientist with the Audubon Nature Institute, which has one of the world's few "frozen zoos."
Frozen zoos stockpile biological materials from a wide variety of rare and critically endangered species. The biological material is usually composed of gametes (sperm and egg cells), embryos, tissue samples, serum and other items. Together, they represent a bank vault of irreplaceable genetic information that can be preserved for possibly hundreds of years or more. In most cases, the materials are stored in holding tanks filled with liquid nitrogen.
Oliver Ryder, director of genetics at the San Diego Zoo, spoke to Discovery News as his team was racing to the Galapagos Islands to help preserve the tissues of Lonesome George. The San Diego Zoo operates one of the other few frozen zoos.
"This is an extremely urgent matter," Ryder said. "We had planned to meet in the Galapagos in two weeks to discuss preservation of the tortoises there. It is a bitter irony that Lonesome George died before we could even finish setting up the plans. It underscores the importance of preserving such animals."
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Posted by Ken at 1:43 AM
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