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Effect of Cooling and Cryopreservation on Sperm Motility and Morphology of Several Species of Marsupial


D.A. Taggart1, C.M. Leigh2, V.R. Steele1, W.G. Breed2, P.D. Temple-Smith1, J. Phelan3


1Department of Anatomy, Monash University, Clayton, Vie. 3168, Australia.

2Department of Anatomy and Histology, Adelaide University, Adelaide, SA 5001, Australia.

3Healesville Sanctuary, Healesville, Vic. 3777, Australia.


ABSTRACT

The effects of long-term cooling and freezing on sperm motility are described for six marsupial species: the fat-tailed dunnart, koala, brushtail possum, long-footed potoroo, northern brown bandicoot and ring-tailed possum. The effects of up to eight days of cooling at 4°C on the motility of dunnart spermatozoa and the effect of cryopreservation on spermatozoa of the other species were determined. The cryoprotectant used was a Tris-citrate-fructose-egg yolk-glycerol diluent. The percentage and rating of sperm motility, and sperm structure, as determined by light microscopy, were investigated. Sperm motility in the fat-tailed dunnart was retained for up to six days when cooled to 4°C, suggesting that sperm from this species have some degree of tolerance to cold shock. After this time, however, the percentage of motile spermatozoa and their motility rating declined. In all species except the fat-tailed dunnart, reinitiation of motility following cryopreservation occurred across a range of glycerol concentrations (4-17%). Cryoprotectant containing 6% and/or 8% glycerol resulted in little change of motility rating or of the percentage of live sperm after thawing, although there was some decline in the percentage of motile sperm. The unusual structural and motility characteristics of dunnart spermatozoa may account for the lack of success of sperm cryopreservation in this species.

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