Dolly to live on as unforgettable ewe

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SHE is now a stuffed carcass, rather than a living clone, but Dolly the Sheep’s status as the world’s most famous animal will be secured for posterity next month.

The handiwork of a taxidermist at the Royal Museum in Edinburgh will immortalise Dolly, who will forever be linked with a scientific milestone.

The public unveiling will also enable vastly more people to see the Finn Dorset ewe than during her sheltered six-year life.

Experts believe the display will cement Dolly’s reputation because of her crucial part in the cloning story.

The sheep, which was put down last month, will form part of an Edinburgh International Science Festival exhibition at the museum in Chambers Street.

Her carcass was donated by the Roslin Institute in Midlothian, where she was born, and it will become part of the museum’s permanent collection, which already has one of her fleeces on show.

Dolly will join her cloned "cousin", Morag, one of a set of twins donated by the Roslin three years ago, after she died from a respiratory infection.

The success of Morag - a Welsh mountain ewe cloned in 1995 from embryo cells grown in culture - led to Dolly being cloned from adult tissue a year later. Morag is on display with Dolly’s fleece in the museum’s crafts gallery.

An approach from the Science Museum in London for Morag’s carcass was rejected by the Roslin. It also agreed Dolly should go to the Royal Museum when she died because the sheep represented "a Scottish success story".

Dr Harry Griffin, who is now the institute’s acting director, said at the time: "We have contingency plans for all our celebrity sheep. If they are to be preserved in the best possible condition, we need to act quickly when they die."

Dolly was put down after she was diagnosed with progressive lung disease, having developed arthritis in one leg last year.

She had been cloned from the udder cell of a six-year-old adult ewe and named after the singer Dolly Parton.

Scientists believe it may never be known whether her death was because she was a clone. However, because of her unique status, Dolly lived an unnatural life, being kept inside and getting less exercise than other sheep.

Dr Griffin said sheep could live for up to 12 years and that lung infections were common in older animals, particularly those housed inside.

An expert in the relationship between humans and animals predicted Dolly would enjoy more than the fleeting fame of many celebrities.

Dr Anthony Podberscek, of the department of clinical veterinary medicine at Cambridge University, said: "She will have more staying power than you might imagine. Because she was the first cloned mammal, she will be remembered for quite some time.

"You command a great deal of attention when you are the first of anything - holding a special place in history. There has been a great deal of interest in cloning and Dolly represents a major step on the path we are following. She has become a symbol and an icon of genetic engineering.

"This is a growing area, so she will be a constant reference point in the future. Giving her a friendly name also gave her a certain amount of personality."

Dr Podberscek conceded that fictional animal characters in films and television, such as Lassie, Skippy and Trigger, would beat Dolly in the fame game.

However, he said her celebrity status would outlive that of animals such as the racehorses Red Rum, who won the Grand National three times, and Shergar, the Derby winner who disappeared after being kidnapped in 1981.

Scientists from the institute are expected to take part in an unveiling ceremony for Dolly at the museum, which will coincide with the 50th anniversary of the discovery of DNA.

A spokeswoman for the National Museums of Scotland said: "Dolly is with a taxidermist at the moment and will initially be put on display in the museum in mid-April."