• in vitro maturation;
  • in vitro fertilization;
  • follicular oocyte;
  • minke whale;
  • Balaenoptera acutorostrata


In vitro fertilization of follicular oocytes harvested from ovaries and matured in vitro was attempted for 55 minke whales (Balaenoptera acutorostrata) captured for Japanese research purposes in the Antarctic Ocean during the period from November 1995 to March 1996. In Experiment 1, effects of culture duration (96 h or 120 h) on maturation of follicular oocytes and addition of caffeine (5 mM) and/or heparin (100 pg/ml) on sperm penetration and pro-nuclear formation were investigated. Spermatozoa recovered from the vasa deferentia of four mature males were diluted (5-fold) and frozen at - 80°C. The post-thawed and pooled spermatozoa were used for in vitro insemination. A higher (P < 0.05) proportion of the oocytes cultured for 120 h (34.2% of 260) progressed beyond the second metaphase stage than of the oocytes cultured for 96 h (26.0% of 262). For the matured oocytes, higher rates of penetration (P < 0.05) and pronuclear formation (P < 0.01) were obtained in the oocytes cultured for 120 h (55.1% and 40.4%) than in those cultured for 96 h (32.4 % and 20.6%). Addition of caffeine and heparin did not show a significant effect. In Experiment 2, follicular oocytes matured for 120 h and then inseminated were cultured to examine the subsequent development in two culture systems (with and without co-cultured cumulus cells). Of 448 inseminated oocytes, cleaved embryos (2–16 cells) were observed with (5.8%) and without (4.9%) co-cultured systems. No cleavage was observed in 54 ova without insemination. These results indicate that in vitro fertilization of minke whale in vitro matured follicular oocytes with cryopreserved spermatozoa is possible, yielding cleaved embryos.