SEZARC also assists The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) with its studies on the endangered Florida panther. The Florida panther was on the brink of extinction with individuals showing many health problems associated with a lack of genetic diversity.
Conducting studies doesn't always take place in a laboratory. Sometimes the laboratory has to be taken to the field. Here, SEZARC staff are working with Florida panthers in the Everglades. To introduce new genes into the population, eight Texas female cats were introduced into the population and allowed to reproduce. One of the measures of genetic fitness is reproductive health, which can be measured by examining semen in males for sperm concentration and numbers of morphologically normal spermatozoa. Texas cats have better sperm than Florida cats. Thus, offspring of Texas cats generally have better sperm than Florida cats, thus sperm can be examined as a measure of genetic and reproductive "fitness." SEZARC staff played a key role in the reproductive aspect of this study by examining the spermatozoa from offspring produced from Florida panthers and Texas cats. This long-term study, spanning 15 years, resulted in the genetic restoration of the Florida panther with a healthier population and a population that has increased in size. An article relating to this study was featured on the Scientific American website.
If you are interested in supporting SEZARC studies, please contact us.