Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Preserving sperm vital to saving 'snot otter' salamanders

Date:
August 4, 2010
Source:
Michigan State University
Summary:
The hellbender salamander -- known affectionately as a snot otter or devil dog -- is one of America's unique giant salamander species. For unexplained reasons, most hellbender populations have rapidly declined as very little reproduction has occurred in recent decades. Working with researchers from the Nashville Zoo and Antwerp Zoo in Belgium, veterinarians are helping develop conservation techniques to sample and freeze the sperm from some of the last surviving salamanders.

Veterinarians from Michigan State University are helping develop conservation techniques to sample and freeze the sperm from some of the last surviving hellbender salamanders.
Credit: Image courtesy of Michigan State University

The hellbender salamander -- known affectionately as a snot otter or devil dog -- is one of America's unique giant salamander species. For unexplained reasons, most hellbender populations have rapidly declined as very little reproduction has occurred in recent decades.

Working with researchers from the Nashville Zoo and Antwerp Zoo in Belgium, veterinarians from Michigan State University are helping develop conservation techniques to sample and freeze the sperm from some of the last surviving salamanders. The international consortium's work aims to enable future re-stocking of genetically viable hellbenders back to their streams and rivers, ensuring the survival of the species.

The largest salamander found in North America, the hellbender can grow to up to 30 inches long and live 30 years or more. They live in a geographic range from Arkansas northeast to New York and have remained relatively unchanged since the time of the dinosaurs.

Dalen Agnew and Carla Carleton from MSU's College of Veterinary Medicine are focusing specifically on evaluating the freezing techniques, known as cryopreservation, developed to keep the hellbender sperm viable.

"The hellbender in the United States is becoming endangered, and to make things more difficult, they are very secretive," said Agnew, a member of the college's Department of Pathobiology and Diagnostic Investigation. "The best we can tell, in most hellbender populations there has been no breeding in the wild for several decades."

While other researchers figure out why -- environmental degradation, habitat loss and biological changes are all possibilities -- the team led by Robert Browne of the Antwerp Zoo along with Sally Nofs and Dale McGinnity of the Nashville Zoo is making sure the species does not go extinct, preserving its genetic diversity.

"The work between Nashville Zoo and Michigan State University for the cryopreservation of hellbender sperm 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.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Michigan State University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Michigan State University. "Preserving sperm vital to saving 'snot otter' salamanders." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 4 August 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/08/100804110210.htm>.
Michigan State University. (2010, August 4). Preserving sperm vital to saving 'snot otter' salamanders. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/08/100804110210.htm
Michigan State University. "Preserving sperm vital to saving 'snot otter' salamanders." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/08/100804110210.htm (accessed August 23, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Endangered Red Wolves Face Uncertain Future

Endangered Red Wolves Face Uncertain Future

AP (Aug. 22, 2014) A federal judge temporarily banned coyote hunting to save endangered red wolves, but local hunters say that the wolf preservation program does more harm than good. Meanwhile federal officials are reviewing its wolf program in North Carolina. (Aug. 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Farm Resurgence Grows With Younger Crowd

Farm Resurgence Grows With Younger Crowd

AP (Aug. 22, 2014) New England farms are seeing a surge in younger farm hands as the 'buy local' food movement grows across the country. (Aug. 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Drug Used To Treat 'Ebola's Cousin' Shows Promise

Drug Used To Treat 'Ebola's Cousin' Shows Promise

Newsy (Aug. 21, 2014) An experimental drug used to treat Marburg virus in rhesus monkeys could give new insight into a similar treatment for Ebola. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Terrifying City-Dwelling Spiders Are Bigger And More Fertile

Terrifying City-Dwelling Spiders Are Bigger And More Fertile

Newsy (Aug. 21, 2014) According to a new study, spiders that live in cities are bigger, fatter and multiply faster. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins