WATCH: Scientists Are Matchmakers For Rare Maned Wolves

WATCH: Scientists Are Matchmakers For Rare Maned Wolves

https://ift.tt/2Jg0h0g

Tinder for wolves? The survival of the maned wolf may depend on the science of matchmaking.


NPR
YouTube

The maned wolf is a weird-looking beast.

Its huge ears and lanky black legs have earned it the nick name “fox on stilts”. But the maned wolf is neither fox nor wolf. It is a distinct species in the Canidae family.

The wolves live in a vast tropical savanna in South America called the Cerrado, which boasts extraordinary diversity of plants and animals. But that habitat is disappearing due to rapid expansion of agriculture.

A maned wolf at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Front Royal, Virginia.

Maia Stern /NPR


hide caption

toggle caption

Maia Stern /NPR

A maned wolf at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Front Royal, Virginia.

Maia Stern /NPR

According to Smithsonian scientist Nucharin Songsasen, this large-scale habitat loss threatens the future of the maned wolf species. “Eighty percent of these grassland already disappeared. And only five percent of that natural habitat that’s remaining is protected.”

So Songsasen is leading a team at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute that is attempting to breed an insurance population of maned wolves. Basically, a backup population of captive maned wolves in case the animals become extinct in the wild.

In order to play matchmaker for the maned wolves, Songsasen works with scientists all over the country to build a genetic database of the wolves currently in captivity. Each wolf is given a genetic value that corresponds with how related they are to other wolves. The less related two wolves are, the better suited they are as potential mates. That’s because genetic diversity helps a population survive.

A maned wolf pup born January 5, 2018 at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Front Royal, Virginia.

Janice Sveda/Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute


hide caption

toggle caption

Janice Sveda/Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute

A maned wolf pup born January 5, 2018 at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Front Royal, Virginia.

Janice Sveda/Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute

Songsasen uses these genetic values as well as the health, age, and location of the wolves to make a match. But mating wolves isn’t as simple as putting two of them together. “They only have two to three days that they will breed a year,” says Songsasen.

Because the wolves mate so infrequently, Songsasen is working on developing reproductive tools to breed the wolves. Songsasen and her colleague Jennifer Nagashima worked with Cornell University to perform the first successful in-vitro fertilization in domestic dogs. Now, they are trying to adapt IVF for the maned wolf.

Until then, they’ll continue to match up wolves and hope for pups the old-fashioned way.

Superforest

via Environment : NPR https://ift.tt/2iBXQGl

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s