Chinese scientists have successfully produced the short-tailed fine-wool sheep through gene editing, the first of its kind globally.
The findings were published in the journal Genome Research on Thursday in an article titled "Genomic analyses of Pamir argali, Tibetan sheep and their hybrids provide insights into chromosome evolution, phenotypic variation, and germplasm innovation."
Liu Mingjun, a researcher at the Xinjiang Academy of Animal Sciences, said that tail length is one of the distinguishing characteristics of domestic sheep breeds.
Long tails are easy to cause infectious diseases, which affect natural mating and reduce the reproduction rate. The wool quality of fine-wool sheep is also reduced due to pollution so long-tailed sheep need tail docking in the lambing stage, Liu noted.
"Tail docking consumes manpower and material resources, and lambs may also be infected in the process, which may hinder their growth and even lead to death. Raising excellent short-tailed sheep breeds that do not require tail docking is one of the goals of sheep breeding in the world," Liu said.
China has 173 million sheep in stock, accounting for 13.5 percent of the global total. The research findings have provided new germplasm resources and scientific support for further accelerating genetic improvement and new breed cultivation of sheep, and promoting the germplasm industry in China, said Li Menghua, professor at China Agricultural University, who is also a member of the research team.