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Animal Genetic Resources In Brazil: Result Of Five Centuries Of Natural Selection.

A. Mariante, A. A. Egito
Published 2002 · Biology, Medicine

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Brazil has various species of domestic animals, which developed from breeds brought by the Portuguese settlers soon after their discovery. For five centuries, these breeds have been subjected to natural selection in specific environments. Today, they present characteristics adapted to the specific Brazilian environmental conditions. These breeds developed in Brazil are known as "Crioulo," "local," or naturalized. From the beginning of the 20th century, some exotic breeds, selected in temperate regions, have begun to be imported. Although more productive, these breeds do not have adaptive traits, such as resistance to disease and parasites found in breeds considered to be "native." Even so, little by little, they replaced the native breeds, to such an extent that the latter are in danger of extinction. In 1983, to avoid the loss of this important genetic material, the National Research Center for Genetic Resources and Biotechnology (Cenargen) of the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation (Embrapa) decided to include conservation of animal genetic resources in its research program Conservation and Utilization of Genetic Resources. Until this time, they were only concerned with conservation of native plants. Conservation has been carried out by various research centers of Embrapa, universities, state research corporations, and private farmers, with a single coordinator at the national level, Cenargen. Specifically, conservation is being carried out by conservation nuclei, which are specific herds in which the animals are being conserved, situated in the habitats where the animals have been subjected to natural selection. This involves storage of semen and embryos from cattle, horses, buffaloes, donkeys, goats, sheep, and pigs. The Brazilian Animal Germplasm Bank is kept at Cenargen, which is responsible for the storage of semen and embryos of various breeds of domestic animals threatened with extinction, where almost 45,000 doses of semen and more than 200 embryos exist presently. An important challenge for this program is to make the different segments of society realize the importance of the conservation of animal genetic resources.
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