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The effect of the breeding season, cryopreservation and physiological extender on selected sperm and semen parameters of four ferret species: implications for captive breeding in the endangered black-footed ferret

van der Horst, G., Kitchin, R.M., van der Horst, M., Atherton, R.W.
Reproduction, fertility, and development 2009 v.21 no.2 pp. 351-363
Mustela nigripes, assisted reproductive technologies, breeding season, cryopreservation, ferrets, semen, sperm motility, spermatozoa
In the present investigation, comparative baseline information on selected sperm characteristics of ejaculate spermatozoa of the domestic (Mustela putorius furo), fitch (Mustela sp.) and black-footed ferrets (Mustela nigripes) and the Siberian polecat (Mustela eversmanni) are presented. The main emphasis was to establish differences and similarities among these species in relation to semen and sperm quality during the breeding season, in cryopreservation success and in supporting sperm motility in different extenders or physiological media. The results confirm that most sperm morphology abnormalities were evident during the beginning of the breeding cycle in all four species. No significant interspecies differences were apparent in the sperm attributes examined, for all sampling months during the breeding season. Moreover, all species exhibited comparable patterns of reproductive seasonality. Cryopreservation suppressed sperm characteristics equally in all species studied. Ejaculate spermatozoa of closely related ferret species shared many similar motion characteristics using computer-aided sperm motility analysis. These results suggest that the basic sperm physiology of the ferret species under examination is very similar. Disparate to the interspecies comparisons, there were significant differences for most sperm motion parameters when spermatozoa of any of the ferrets were compared in different extenders. Assisted reproductive technologies developed for use in domestic ferret, fitch ferret or Siberian polecat may be successfully applied to captive breeding of the black-footed ferret using semen during any of the functional breeding months.