Asturias creates a “Noah’s Ark” for its species at risk of extinction

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Gijón, Aug 2 (EFE) .- The Regional Service for Agri-Food Research and Development of the Principality of Asturias (Serida) conserves hundreds of embryos and tens of thousands of doses of semen in a gene bank that, as in the biblical account “The Ark de Noé “, seeks to preserve their domestic species at risk of extinction.

The Animal Genetic Resources Bank houses germplasm from the Asturian breeds of the mountain (bovine), xalda (sheep), bemeya (goat), gochu asturcelta (porcine), asturcón (equine) and pita pita.

Storing genetic resources of indigenous species whose populations have been drastically reduced is a recommendation of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, FAO, to guarantee biodiversity.

The search for greater profitability in agricultural products has caused the presence of indigenous species in the Asturian countryside to be almost testimonial as they are replaced by other foreign ones.

The consequence of this process for tens of years is the loss of biodiversity and an increased risk of disappearance of the species due to natural catastrophes or diseases.

In the same way that covid-19 affected humans, a massive viral or bacterial contagion can occur in animals that involves their sacrifice and in that case the genetic material can be a tool for recovery, according to Efe, the chief. from the Animal Selection and Reproduction Area of ​​Serida, Carlos Hidalgo.

The indigenous breeds participate in a perfect balance in certain areas, as a result of a harmony between climate, terrain, flora and fauna and constitute an important cultural and genetic heritage, said Hidalgo.

Located in the rural parish of Deva, in Gijón, the Bank of Asturias keeps 481 embryos and 96,000 doses of semen from Asturian mountains, known in the region as a casina cow, frozen in liquid nitrogen.

In the hypothetical case that the last specimen of this species perished, that will not mean the disappearance that will be recovered from the frozen embryos.

Currently, the bank can only guarantee the survival of this species without resorting to cloning processes, because for the rest of the species it has been possible to freeze female oocytes.


Extraction and preservation of oocytes from females is a “very difficult” procedure, with few results, although it is possible “and in the future we will try it,” said researcher Carolina Tamargo.

The Serida cryogenic freezing tanks also hold tens of thousands of doses of semen from xalda, bermeya, gochu asturcelta, asturcón and pita pinta.

In addition to constituting a genetic reserve that in the future can be completed with female oocytes, this material is used to improve the livestock herd through insemination.

The latest finding of the researchers has been to obtain the extraction and preservation of semen from the pita pinta rooster, which contains 51 doses from nine donors.

Freezing semen is not an easy task, each species requires a different procedure, with specific diluents and preservatives, and in the case of pita pint, it has been “an achievement,” said veterinarian Tamargo.

The method used with the Asturian pita pita could be used in studies carried out on the recovery of wild birds, such as the grouse, which is in a serious situation on the verge of extinction in northern Spain.

The specimens for the extraction of genetic material are selected by the different breeder associations, based on the morphological characteristics, the state of health and the purity of the breed.

Serida researchers check the quality of the samples by evaluating the movement and vigor of the sperm and the integrity of the plasma membrane and the acrosome.

The Bank of Animal Genetic Resources of Asturias maintains cooperation ties with the Institute of Animal Science and Technology of Valencia, the Biology Group and the Institute of Research on Hunting Resources of Castilla-La Mancha and the Veterinary Unit of the University of Córdoba, among others.

By Juan González


(c) EFE Agency

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