OCT 15, 2020 1:06 PM PDT

Meet the World's First Cloned Przewalski's Horse

WRITTEN BY: Tiffany Dazet

Say “hello!” to Kurt, a two-month-old Przewalski’s horse that has made scientific history as the world’s first successfully cloned Przewalski’s horse. While cloning is not new to domestic horses and cattle, Kurt represents significant reproductive technology advances to preserve endangered species. Kurt was created from cells that resided in the San Diego Zoo Global’s (SDZG) Frozen Zoo for 40 years and is named after a key founder of the conservation program, Kurt Benirschke, M.D.

Kurt was born on August 6, 2020, at Timber Creek Veterinary in Texas, a ViaGen Equine collaborator. Texas-based ViaGen Equine, California conservation organization Revive and Restore, and SDZG worked together to make this historic birth occur. According to the AP, the frozen cells were fused with an egg from a domestic horse. To ensure that the offspring would be more representative of the Przewalski species, the AP reports that the egg’s nucleus was removed before implantation.

According to the SDZG’s Institute for Conservation Research, Przewalski’s horses were once considered extinct in the wild. For the past 40 years, the species has survived nearly entirely in zoological populations worldwide. SDZG reports that all of these surviving horses are related to only 12 wild Przewalski’s horses. Additionally, although zoological breeding programs have bolstered this species’ numbers, genetic diversity was lost. SDZG hopes that techniques such as the one that created Kurt can restore genetic diversity throughout the Przewalski horse population.

In the article from SDZG regarding the birth, Bob Wiese, Ph.D., the chief life sciences officer at SDZG, said, “This colt is expected to be one of the most genetically important individuals of his species. We are hopeful that he will bring back genetic variation important for the future of the Przewalski’s horse population.”

SDZG’s Frozen Zoo was established in the 1970s to preserve genetic samples of endangered or otherwise threatened species until technology to help these species became available. As Oliver Ryder, Ph.D., the director of genetics at SDZG, stated, “A central tenet of the Frozen Zoo, when it was established by Dr. Benirschke, was that it would be used for purposes not possible at the time.” He continues that, “the living cells in the Frozen Zoo are contributing to reversing losses of genetic diversity and contributing to population sustainability.”

Sources: Associated Press, San Diego Zoo Global

About the Author
  • Tiffany grew up in Southern California, where she attended San Diego State University. She graduated with a degree in Biology with a marine emphasis, thanks to her love of the ocean and wildlife. With 13 years of science writing under her belt, she now works as a freelance writer in the Pacific Northwest.
You May Also Like
JUL 23, 2020
Plants & Animals
Groups Led by Dominant Males Are Less Cooperative
JUL 23, 2020
Groups Led by Dominant Males Are Less Cooperative
When aggressive males led groups of fish in a complex task, those fish did poorly on the task compared to groups led by ...
JUL 30, 2020
Drug Discovery & Development
Cats Successfully Treated with Gene Therapy
JUL 30, 2020
Cats Successfully Treated with Gene Therapy
While gene therapy is a promising treatment for multiple diseases caused by a genetic mutation, getting gene therapy age ...
JUL 31, 2020
Plants & Animals
This Fungus Spreads by Manipulating Male Cicadas into Mimicking Females
JUL 31, 2020
This Fungus Spreads by Manipulating Male Cicadas into Mimicking Females
Researchers from West Virginia University (WVU) recently discovered how a parasitic fungus uses male cicadas to spread i ...
SEP 01, 2020
Plants & Animals
Revealing a Mummy's Secrets With High-Resolution Scans
SEP 01, 2020
Revealing a Mummy's Secrets With High-Resolution Scans
Researchers have used a technique called micro–computer tomography (micro-CT) scanning to analyze mummified animal ...
SEP 06, 2020
Technology
Can Math Determine The Sex of a Dinosaur?
SEP 06, 2020
Can Math Determine The Sex of a Dinosaur?
Can math tell us about the gender differences in dinosaurs? A new study published a novel statistical analysis that esti ...
SEP 27, 2020
Plants & Animals
In a Surprise, Tarantulas Seem to Have Color Vision
SEP 27, 2020
In a Surprise, Tarantulas Seem to Have Color Vision
The image by Bastian Rast shows a Cobalt Blue Tarantula (Hapolpelma lividum), with brilliant cobalt blue hair-like setae ...
Loading Comments...