Degree

Doctor of Biomedical and Veterinary Medical Sciences-Pathobiological Sciences (PVMPB)

Department

Veterinary Clinical Sciences

Document Type

Dissertation

Abstract

Biodiversity loss is the most critical environmental problem threatening ecosystem, animal, and human health today. Increases in extinction rates have been observed over the past 50 years, with reptile losses occurring twelve times faster than traditional extinction rates. This demonstrated biodiversity loss is secondary to climate change, habitat destruction, infectious disease, invasive species, poaching, and unsustainable trade. Approximately 20% of all reptiles are threatened with extinction and population declines are approaching rates similar to the current amphibian extinction crisis. Preventing the extinction of reptiles will require humans to acknowledge these losses and develop plans to preserve these evolutionary sentinel species.

Assisted reproductive technologies (ART) are well developed in a handful of species, and these technologies have become integral parts of conservation programs for threatened and endangered species. The creation of functional and sustainable reproductive assistance programs for reptiles using ART will strengthen our conservation capacity. Combining ART with an understanding of reproductive physiology will enable scientists to capture genetic material from different animals housed at different institutions, overcoming reproductive barriers. Subsequent gamete transport will reduce the need to transport animals from stressful or dangerous environments for breeding. Additionally, these gametes could be stored indefinitely to preserve genetic diversity.

The goal of this research was to systematically apply ART to male reptiles. Semen was safely and successfully collected from veiled (Chamaeleo calyptratus) and panther chameleons (Furcifer pardalis) using electroejaculation. The annual reproductive cycles of these two chameleons were characterized under captive conditions, and both species follow season breeding cycles. Human chorionic gonadotropin can be used to increase circulating plasma testosterone concentrations in veiled chameleons. Short-term cooled semen storage can be done in red-eared sliders (Trachemys scripta elegans) and diamondback water snakes (Nerodia fasciata) using Ham’s F10, INRA 96, and sperm washing buffer; green anole (Anolis carolinensis) semen could not be stored using these same extenders. Red-eared slider turtle spermatozoa motility was lost following cryopreservation, but plasma membrane integrity remained. Reptile survival is dependent on how we plan today. ART will help us develop programs to preserve the genetics of these sentinel animals.

Date

3-13-2019

Committee Chair

Mitchell, Mark A.

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