Bucardo bites back

LAST UPDATED: 29 Mar, 2009 @ 17:16
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Bucardo bites back

Pyrenean ibexRare mountain goat could make a comeback after an extinct animal is cloned for the first time

IT was officially declared extinct in 2000.

But now the bucardo, a form of wild mountain goat, could be making a comeback, after scientists in northern Spain managed to clone a female.

The remarkable breakthrough came thanks to the quick-thinking of scientists who preserved skin samples of the bucardo in liquid nitrogen.

Newborn

Using DNA taken from these skin samples, the scientists were able to replace the genetic material in eggs from domestic goats, to clone a female bucardo, or Pyrenean ibex, as they are also known.

It is the first time an extinct animal has been cloned.

Sadly, the newborn ibex kid died shortly after birth due to physical defects in its lungs.

But the breakthrough has raised hopes that it will be possible to save endangered and extinct species by resurrecting them from frozen tissue. It has also increased the possibility that it will one day be possible to reproduce long-dead species such as woolly mammoths and even dinosaurs.

Dr Jose Folch, from the Centre of Food Technology and Research of Aragon, in Zaragoza, northern Spain, led the research along with colleagues from the National Research Institute of Agriculture and Food in Madrid.

He said: “The delivered kid was genetically identical to the bucardo. Cloning is the only possibility to avoid its complete disappearance.”

Protected

Pyrenean ibex, which have distinctive curved horns, were once common in northern Spain and in the French Pyrenees, but extensive hunting during the 19th century reduced their numbers to fewer than 100 individuals.

They were eventually declared protected in 1973, but by 1981 just 30 remained in their last foothold in the Ordesa National Park in Aragon.

The last bucardo, a 13-year-old female known as Celia, was found dead in January 2000 by park rangers near the French border with her skull crushed.

Dr Folch and his colleagues had, however, captured the bucardo the previous year and had taken a tissue sample from her ear.

Professor Robert Miller, director the Medical Research Council’s Reproductive Sciences Unit at Edinburgh University, said: “I think this is an exciting advance as it does show the potential of being able to regenerate extinct species.

“Clearly there is some way to go before it can be used effectively, but the advances in this field are such that we will see more and more solutions to the problems faced.”

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