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A&M scientists marvel at trio of healthy fawns

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  • Pat Scala
    Doe, a deer, 3 female deer A&M scientists marvel at trio of healthy fawns By ARENA WELCH Eagle Staff Writer Texas A&M researchers recently bred Dewey, the
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 30, 2006
      Doe, a deer, 3 female deer

      A&M scientists marvel at trio of healthy fawns

      Eagle Staff Writer

      Texas A&M researchers recently bred Dewey, the world's first cloned
      white-tailed deer, in hopes of studying whether his large antlers would be
      inherited by his offspring.

      But even though his triplet fawns were born last Wednesday - giving
      researchers three shots at exploration - they're going to have to wait for
      the next round.

      Born at the Texas A&M Wildlife and Exotic Center, Sandy, Debbie and Gavi are
      happy, healthy and a little big for their age, experts said.

      And, as each name suggests, they are female.

      "We'll have to see what it does in the next generation," said Alice
      Blue-McLendon, who oversees their care at the center.

      Blue-McLendon said re-searchers weren't disappointed. They will keep
      breeding Dewey and eventually study his sons to see if the offspring of a
      clone will inherit his large antlers, just like the offspring of a natural
      buck would.

      Scientists now have no knowledge about antler inheritance in the offspring
      of a clone, the clinical veterinarian said.

      Sandy and Debbie each weighed 5 1/2 pounds at birth, while Gavi weighed
      about 3 1/4 pounds.

      The trio's mother, Heidi, is 10 years old. Dewey was born in May 2003 and is
      the only cloned deer at the center. He was cloned using skin tissue from a
      slain deer - another first, Blue-McLendon said. The buck whose cells were
      used was described as "larger than average," which makes Dewey, his genetic
      equal, the ideal source of large antlers.

      Since 1999, Texas A&M researchers have cloned six other species not
      including Dewey. Second Chance, a bull, was born in August 1999. A
      disease-resistant calf named 86 Squared was cloned in November 2000. In
      2001, three cloned species were born - a Boer goat named Second Addition in
      March, a litter of piglets in August and a cat named cc, short for carbon
      copy or copy cat, in December. In March 2005, Paris Texas, the first cloned
      horse in North America, was born.

      Triplet fawns are rare, and the center never has had a set, Blue-McLendon
      said. A doe usually will have only one fawn at a time when she is young, and
      she can birth twins several years later, she said.

      "It's hard for them to raise three," she said. "That's a lot of little
      mouths to feed."

      The trio recently was separated from their mother and are being
      "hand-raised," meaning they are fed and handled by humans, so they will be
      tamer and able to handle life at the center around people, Blue-McLendon

      "They're still wild animals, but they're much better suited for captivity,"
      she said.

      Texas A&M students assist the center's staff in feeding and caring for the
      fawns, Blue-McLendon said.

      "They're excellent teaching tools for students who are learning to care for
      baby livestock," Blue-McLendon said, adding that many students who work at
      the center want to be veterinarians and zookeepers.

      The triplets will remain at the center for life, Blue-McLendon said. In the
      future, the fawns likely will be studied in reproductive research, she said.

      "When they're this young, we don't really know exactly what kind of research
      projects they'll be used for," she said.

      . Arena Welch's e-mail address is arena.welch@ theeagle.com.

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