Black-Footed Ferret Becomes First US Endangered Species To Be Cloned

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Black-Footed Ferret Becomes First US Endangered Species To Be Cloned

The first ever cloning of an endangered species native to the United States has taken place. Using genes from a black-footed ferret that died over 30 years ago, the scientific team has brought a new animal to life.

The team now hope that this cloning process will allow more black-footed ferrets to be bred and that their depleted numbers can be rejuvenated.

The ferret, known as Elizabeth Ann, was born in Fort Collins, Colorado, in late December 2020 but her birth has only recently been announced. She is a direct clone of another black-footed ferret, Willa, who died in 1988. Since her death, her genes have been left frozen in a laboratory.

Noreen Walsh, director of the USFWS Mountain-Prairie Region, said of the cloning:

"Although this research is preliminary, it is the first cloning of a native endangered species in North America, and it provides a promising tool for continued efforts to conserve the black-footed ferret."

Ben Novak, a lead scientist with Revive & Restore, and who was involved in the project, said:

"Biotechnology and genomic data can really make a difference on the ground with conservation efforts."

The black-footed ferret is extraordinarily rare, so rare in fact that earlier in the 20th century, the species was believed to be extinct until a specimen was found in 1981. Also known as the American Polecat or Prairie Dog Hunter, there are thought to be only dozens to hundreds of them in the wild. At present, they are only known to exist in the Western Big Horn Basin in the state of Wyoming.

Due to habitat loss and human-introduced diseases, their numbers plummeted over the centuries. They have also been killed on a large-scale by indirect poisoning. The black-footed ferrets hunt and eat prairie dogs which are considered an agricultural pest, farmers lay poisons for the prairie dogs and then the black-footed ferrets are poisoned when they eat the prairie dogs. Black-footed ferrets are themselves prey for eagles, coyotes and bobcats.

It is hoped that the cloning process will guarantee the survival of the black-footed ferret and other endangered, or even extinct, species across the globe.

The first ever cloning of a mammal took place in Scotland in 1996 with the birth of 'Dolly the Sheep', despite the scientific intrigue Dolly was left with genetic abnormalities and died aged just 7. Several endangered species have also been cloned previously. Endangered animals that have been cloned previously include the mouflon (wild sheep), the gaur (an ox-like species and the first endangered animal to be cloned), the banteng (a wild cattle species) and the burcado mountain goat (which was extinct at the time of cloning).

[h/t: I heart Intelligence]

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Thinking Humanity: Black-Footed Ferret Becomes First US Endangered Species To Be Cloned
Black-Footed Ferret Becomes First US Endangered Species To Be Cloned
The first ever cloning of an endangered species native to the United States has taken place. Using genes from a black-footed ferret that died over 30
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