Reptile assisted reproductive technologies: can ART help conserve 300 million years of evolution by preserving extant reptile biodiversity?

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Biodiversity loss is the greatest environmental problem threatening ecosystem, animal, and human health. Anthropogenic induced changes to climate, habitat, disease, species distributions, poaching, and unsustainable trade have accelerated extinction rates in all vertebrates, including reptiles. Preventing reptile extinctions will require humans to acknowledge these losses and develop ex situ and in situ plans to preserve them. Assisted reproductive technologies (ART) are management tools used to protect numerous vertebrate taxa; however, progress in developing ART for reptiles has lagged. Creating functional and sustainable reptile ART will strengthen our conservation capacity by capturing genetic material from select individuals to overcome natural or manmade boundaries. Utilising short-term gamete storage and genome resource banking, in conjunction with timed artificial insemination (AI) or ex ovo incubation, could lead to profound advances in reptile conservation, mitigating the loss of reptile biodiversity. In this article, we review ART reptile research completed since the 1970s. Topics include AI, hormonal control of reproduction, gamete collection, gamete storage, and genome resource banking. Additionally, we review the potential application of advanced reproductive methodologies, including in vitro /ex ovo fertilisation, intracytoplasmic sperm injection, cloning (somatic cell nuclear transfer), and genetic editing.

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Reproduction, fertility, and development

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