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The koala (Phascolarctos cinereus): a case study in the development of reproductive technology in a marsupial.

  • Johnston, Stephen D
  • Holt, William V
Published Article
Advances in experimental medicine and biology
Publication Date
Jan 01, 2014
DOI: 10.1007/978-1-4939-0820-2_9
PMID: 25091911


The successful development and application of an assisted breeding program in any animal relies primarily on a thorough understanding of the fundamental reproductive biology (anatomy, physiology and behaviour) of the species in question. Surely, the ultimate goal and greatest hallmark of such a program is the efficacious establishment of a series of reliable techniques that facilitate the reproductive and genetic management of fragmented populations, both in captivity and in the wild. Such an achievement is all the more challenging when the reproductive biology of that species is essentially rudimentary and without adequate reproductive models to compare to. Using the koala (Phascolarctos cinereus) as a case study, this chapter provides some personal insights into the evolution of a concept that began as a small undergraduate student project but that subsequently evolved into the first-ever successful artificial insemination of a marsupial. Apart from this historical perspective, we also provide a brief review of the current reproductive biology of the koala, discuss technical elements of current assisted breeding technology of this species, its potential application to the wombat, and the future role it might play in helping to conserve wild koala populations. There is little doubt that the unique reproductive biology and tractability of the koala has in this case been a benefit rather than a hindrance to the success of artificial breeding in this species.

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