9 Lesser-Known Cloned Animals

It started with Dolly

Photo: -JvL- [CC by 2.0]/Flickr

In 1996, Scottish researchers shocked the world with the news that they had cloned a sheep, which they dubbed Dolly. Due to progressive lung disease and arthritis uncommon for a sheep of her age, Dolly was euthanized at age 6. (Her taxidermied remains are displayed at The National Museum of Scotland, shown here.) Dolly’s birth and death sparked a debate about the ethics of animal cloning that continues today. Some see cloning as the only hope for certain, critically endangered species. Here’s a look at some of the lesser-known animals created through cloning.

Gaur

daktre/Flickr.

Indian bison, also known as gaur, look like a cross between an ox and a water buffalo. They are commonly found in Asian tropical woodlands in places like Cambodia, Laos, China, India, Nepal and Vietnam. As humans encroach on their wild habitats, their numbers are dwindling. In 2001, Bessie, an American cow, gave birth to a gaur clone called Noah in Iowa. Noah initially exhibited promise, and one of his creators told CNN that "within 12 hours of birth, Noah was able to stand unaided and began an inquisitive search of his new surroundings." But just 48 hours after birth, Noah succumbed to an intestinal disorder and died.

Mouflon

Geoffrey Gilson/Flickr.

The endangered European mouflon, also known as a small, feral sheep, was first cloned in 2001 in Italy. Threatened in its original habitat of the Mediterranean islands of Sardinia, Corsica and Cyprus, the animal nearly died out a century ago. The mouflon was cloned using the same technique scientists used to create the sheep Dolly — a somatic cell nuclear transfer. This is a lab technique used to create an ovum with a donor nucleus.

Black-footed ferret

USFWS Mountain Prairie/Flickr.

The domestic ferret was first cloned in 2006 through somatic cell nuclear transfer, in part to produce test subjects for human medical research. However, the process may be used to protect endangered ferrets as well. The black-footed ferret is among the most endangered mammals in North America. A recent boom in the prairie dog population, which the ferret likes to eat, has slowly brought their numbers back up. However, as landowners often blame the ferret for damaging crops, their situation remains tenuous.

Water buffalo

orange.tag.pixx/Flickr.

The water buffalo, also known as the Asian buffalo, is a large member of the bovini family that hs horns that curve backward in a crescent shape and can grow to 6 feet tall. These animals enjoy the muddy waters of tropical and subtropical Asia, and they also forage on aquatic plants and grasslands. They are friends to humans and have been domesticated for at least 5,000 years. In 2005, the first water buffalo was cloned in China in a study run by Guangxi University.

Rhesus monkey

pamhule/Flickr.

Rhesus monkeys are what National Geographic terms an “old world animal,” as their range includes Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Southeast Asia and China. Some introduced monkeys live in the wilds of Florida. They are social animals that live in female-led communities featuring an occasional dominant male.

In 2000, a monkey named Tetra became the first primate cloned by scientists. This embryo-splitting method differed from methods used to create Dolly because it created genetically invariable animals — not identical to the parent as Dolly was.

Banteng

ucumari/Flickr.

The banteng is a species of wild cattle found primarily in Southeast Asia. Banteng, which are also known as native Indonesian cattle, are listed by the World Conservation Union as “severely threatened” as their numbers have declined as much as 85 percent in the past 15 to 20 years. A large herd of banteng resides in Australia, where they are largely protected short of 40 males that hunters pay to shoot each year. In an effort to preserve the species, two banteng calves were born to surrogate cows in Iowa in 2003. The genetic material to clone the calves came from the San Diego Zoo's Center for Reproduction of Endangered Species, where genetic tissue from endangered animals is being archived.

African wildcat

kibuyu/Flickr.

The African wildcat, which is found in Africa and the Middle East, is a bit smaller than its domestic counterpart. It is also one of the first wild species to be cloned. The Audubon Center for Research of Endangered Species announced in 2005 that their cloned wildcats had bred and delivered two litters of kittens. "By improving the cloning process and then encouraging cloned animals to breed and make babies, we can revive the genes of individuals who might not be reproductively viable otherwise, and we can save genes from animals in the wild,” Dr. Betsy Dresser, who led the scientific team at the Audubon Center, said in a BBC article.

Pyrenean ibex

MNHN/Service audiovisuel (National Museum of Natural History).

The Pyrenean ibex was declared extinct when the last of its kind was found dead in its native Spain in 2000. But in 2009, reports surfaced that scientists had preserved DNA from the last known Pyrenean ibex. Filling in the blanks with DNA from domestic goats, a newborn ibex was created, but died shortly after birth due to lung problems. This was the first time an extinct species was “resurrected,” albeit for only a short time.

White-tailed deer

Jeremiah John McBride/Flickr.

It is not just endangered animals that have received the attention of scientists. The white-tailed deer is extremely common in North America. Nonetheless, researchers at Texas A&M; cloned the first white-tailed deer in 2003. White-tailed deer are the most abundant big-game livestock in America and ranchers make a significant amount of money from hunters who pay to stalk them on their ranches. "Especially in the state of Texas, there are a lot of ranches that make more money on their deer management than they do on their livestock," researcher Mark Westhusin, who helped create the clone, told msnbc.com Westhusin also says that cloning could preserve some endangered species of deer.