The Pyrenean Ibex
The Recently Extinct Pyrenean Ibex
One of the more recent examples of animal extinction is the Pyrenean Ibex. A few hundred years ago they were numerous, but by 1900 their numbers had fallen to less than 100. From 1910 onwards, their numbers never rose above 40, and the species were found only in a small part of Ordesa National Park, in Huesca.
The last natural Pyrenean Ibex, a female named Celia, was found dead on January 6, 2000, apparently killed by a falling tree. Although her cause of its death is known, the reason for the extinction of the Ibex as a whole is a mystery.
Photo courtesy listoplenty
In January 2009, the Pyrenean Ibex was the first species to ever be brought back into existence via cloning, only to go extinct again just seven minutes after being born. Its death was due to lung failure.
The biotechnology company Advanced Cell Technology, Inc. announced on October 8, 2000 that the Spanish government has agreed to their offer to use nuclear transfer cloning technology in collaboration with other scientific partners to clone the Pyrenean ibex from the tissue that was taken in 1999. It was expected to be easier than the cloning experiment of endangered gaur, as the reproductive biology of goats is better known and the normal gestation period is only five months. ATC has agreed with the government of Aragon that the future cloned Pyrenean Ibexes will be returned to their original habitat.
The project could be of useful conservation value only if multiple goats could be cloned to form a viable gene pool. As it is, cloning one goat will not save the subspecies.
Celia was able to provide perfect tissue samples for cloning. However, attempts to clone Celia have highlighted a major problem: even if it were possible to produce another healthy Pyrenean Ibex, there are no males for the female clone to breed with. One solution could be to cross Celia's clones with males of another subspecies, although the offspring would not be pure Pyrenean Ibex. A more ambitious plan would be to remove one X chromosome and add a Y chromosome from another still-existing subspecies, creating a male Pyrenean Ibex, but such technology does not yet exist and it is not known whether this will be feasible at all without irreparably damaging the cell.
Three teams of scientists, two Spanish and one French, are involved in the cloning project. The project is coordinated by the Food and Agricultural Investigation Service of the Government of Aragon and by the National Institute of Investigation and Food and Agrarian Technology. The National Institute of Agrarian Investigation of France is also involved in the project.
Researchers took adult Somatic cell from the tissue and fused them with oocytes from goats that had their nucleus removed. The resultant embryos were transferred into a domestic goat, to act as a surrogate mother. In 2003, it was announced that the first attempt to clone the Pyrenean Ibex failed. Of the 285 embryos reconstructed, 54 were transferred to 12 mountain goats and mountain goat-domesticated goat hybrids, but only two survived the initial two months of gestation before they too died. In 2009, one clone was born alive, but died seven minutes later, due to physical defects in the lungs.