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Bison Diversity Boost

Using embryo transfers from bison living in Yellowstone National Park into bison in Minnesota, researchers hope to boost the genetic diversity of the Minnesotan bison, the Associated Press reports.

Millions of bison used to live on the plains of the US, but they were hunted nearly to extinction, and today, there are some 30,000 wild bison. Yellowstone has the largest bison population and is the most genetically diverse, the AP adds.

Transferring embryos from Yellowstone bison, the AP notes is tricky. Yellowstone bison don't carry any domesticated cattle genes — which its says makes them prized for such an endeavor — but they do carry brucellosis, which can cause spontaneous abortions.

Jennifer Barfield from Colorado State University and her colleagues implanted embryos in four female bison at the Minnesota Zoo last month and are now waiting to see whether they took, the AP reports. If so, then the baby bison would be born in the spring. But, Keith Aune, who directs the bison at the Wildlife Conservation Society, cautions the AP that this is an experimental procedure: when a similar approach was used at the Bronx Zoo, only one out of 25 tries resulted in a bison calf.