Reproductive potential of domestic Ovis aries for preservation of threatened Ovis orientalis isphahanica: in vitro and in vivo studies
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Although the potential use of reproductive biotechnology for safeguarding of endangered wildlife species is undoubted, initial evaluation of the genetic and reproductive relationship between the endangered mammals and those closely related species is indispensable. Isfahan mouflon Ovis orientalis isphahanica is now considered as a threatened species by International Union for the Conservation of Nature. Therefore, little is known about the biology of this species. This study was carried out to investigate the possible reproductive potential of domestic sheep for ex situ conservation of the Isfahan mouflon. Somatic cell cultures were taken from ear biopsies of the wild and domestic sheep and were used for karyotype analysis. Semen samples were collected by electroejaculator from the wild and domestic rams. The spermatological characteristics of the collected semen samples were determined and used for both cryopreservation and cross-insemination of the synchronized wild and domestic female sheep. To establish a cryobank for the threatened species biomaterials, freezed samples of the somatic cells and semen were transferred to a cryotank. The result suggested that Isfahan mouflon has conserved its chromosomal integrity as previously observed and contains the same chromosomal number as the domestic sheep (2n = 54). The semen samples of both species revealed similar cryoviability (>35% gross motility postthawing). Cross-insemination of both species resulted in successful pregnancy. It was suggested that domestic sheep possesses the required biological characteristics to be considered for safeguarding of the Isfahan mouflon.