Date of this Version
Theriogenology 160 (2021) 33-39
Bison from Yellowstone National Park (YNP) have an important genetic history. As one of the few wild herds of bison with no evidence of cattle DNA introgression and a large enough population to maintain genetic diversity, they are considered a conservation priority for the species. Unfortunately, there is a high prevalence of the zoonotic disease brucellosis in the herd. Part of the management strategy for controlling the disease and herd size in YNP is to remove bison from the population during the winter migration out of the park. This interagency management cull provides an opportunity to collect a large number of oocytes from a wild bison population for genetic banking and research purposes. During the winters of 2014–2018, which is the nonbreeding season for bison, oocytes were collected post mortem and used to determine the effects of donor reproductive maturity and pregnancy status on oocyte quality and in vitro fertilization (IVF) outcomes, and to demonstrate the feasibility of producing healthy offspring. Cumulus oocyte complexes (COCs) were placed into an in vitro embryo production (IVP) system, and on days 7, 7.5, and 8 of in vitro culture (Day 0 = day of in vitro fertilization) embryos were assessed for developmental stage and quality prior to vitrification. Embryos were then stored in liquid nitrogen until the breeding season when a subset were warmed, cultured for 6 h, evaluated for survival, and transferred to healthy bison recipients. There were no significant differences in the ability of recovered COCs to support blastocyst development based on female reproductive maturity or pregnancy status (juvenile 79/959 (8.2%) vs sexually mature 547/6544 (8.4%); non-pregnant 188/2302 (8.2%) vs pregnant 556/6122 (9.1%)). Following the transfer of 15 embryos to 10 recipients, one healthy female calf was born. This work demonstrates that live offspring can be generated from COCs collected from YNP bison post mortem in the non-breeding season, and that gamete recovery can be a valuable tool for conservation of valuable genetics for this species while mitigating diseases like brucellosis.
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