Endangered Species Helped by Puppy Born from Frozen Embryo

First Posted: Feb 05, 2013 12:37 PM EST

Endangered species may be getting a leg up when it comes to repopulating. A beagle-Labrador retriever mix has successfully been born from a frozen embryo, becoming the first puppy of its kind to be born in this manner in the western hemisphere. This could have a huge impact for canids, like the red wolf, that are quickly declining in the wild.

The nine-month-old puppy, named Klondike, was born after its mother was artificially inseminated. The resulting embryos were then collected and frozen until Klondike's surrogate mother, also a beagle, was ready to receive the embryo. Conducted by researchers at Cornell's Baker Institute for Animal Health and the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, this technique could give scientists another tool to repopulate endangered species.

The red wolf, in particular, has been considered endangered since 1967 and is protected under federal law. Currently, only about 100 red wolves roam their native habitats in five northeastern North Carolina counties. Known for the reddish color behind their ears and along their neck and legs, they are sometimes mistaken for coyotes. Most recently, a radio collared red wolf was found shot in North Carolina; the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is now offering a $2500 reward for information about the shooting.

Since dogs are only able to sustain a pregnancy once or twice a year, the ability to freeze canine embryos allows researchers to coordinate timing for transfer into surrogates. This could allow scientists to preserve genetic diversity in canid species that are facing endangered species status or extinction.

"Reproduction in dogs is remarkably different than in other mammals," said Alex Travis, Baker faculty member and Director of Cornell's campus-wide Center for Wildlife Conservation in an interview with "We're working to understand these differences so we can tackle issues ranging from developing contraceptives to preserving the genetic diversity of endangered animals through assisted reproduction."

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