Rare sheep cloned from dead donor

With DNA from recently dead animals, an international team has cloned an imperiled

The first cloned mouflon lamb grazes with surrogate mom.


The unveiling of a mouflon sheep clone “is the first report of a dead cell used

for cloning,” says Pasqualino Loi of the University of Teramo in Italy.

Herds of rare wild mouflon sheep, Ovis orientalis musimon, are shrinking on their native Mediterranean islands of Sardinia, Corsica, and Cyprus. When two ewes died at a wildlife rescue center in Sardinia, the staff sent tissue to Loi and his


The scientists substituted nuclei from cells of the mouflon ewes for nuclei in egg

cells from a domestic sheep. Out of 23 substituted eggs, seven developed enough

for transfer to surrogate domestic sheep mothers. In the summer of 2000, one ewe

delivered a mouflon lamb. The researchers announced their success in the October

Nature Biotechnology.

Loi and his coworkers welcome the lamb as the first viable clone of an endangered

species. An American team cloned a rare wild ox called a gaur last year (SN: 2/10/01, p. 95: Cloned gaur born healthy, then dies), but the calf died from a common disease within a week of birth.

Regardless of which team proved the principle first, advocates of cloning rare

animals contend that such measures add a useful tool to the options for saving


Susan Milius is the life sciences writer, covering organismal biology and evolution, and has a special passion for plants, fungi and invertebrates. She studied biology and English literature.