Scientists clone first EVER endangered species in US as cute ferret is born from genes of animal that died 30 years ago

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SCIENTISTS have cloned the first endangered species in the US ever, a black-footed ferret, from an animal that died three decades ago. 

The successful clone, Elizabeth Ann, was born on December 10, using the cells of long-deceased black-footed ferret Willa, the US Fish and Wildlife Service announced on Friday.

EPA

The genetic clone, Elizabeth Ann, was born on December 10[/caption]

Willa was one of the last wild black-footed ferrets to be captured and after she died in the 1980s, her cells were frozen.

“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,” said the service’s mountain-prairie region director Noreen Walsh.

The Wyoming Game & Fish Department preserved Willa’s genes and sent her tissue samples to San Diego Zoo Global’s Frozen Zoo in 1988.

Willa’s frozen cells were viable for producing her genetic copy. 

EPA

Elizabeth Ann was produced using the frozen cells of Willa, an animal that died in the 1980s[/caption]

“With these cloning techniques, you can basically freeze time and regenerate those cells,” said Pete Gober, the service’s national black-footed ferret recovery coordinator, according to Fox News.

“We’re far from it now as far as tinkering with the genome to confer any genetic resistance, but that’s a possibility in the future.”

The process required using a tame domestic ferret. 

Reuters

Elizabeth Ann is the first endangered species clone in the US[/caption]

A second clone died. 

Black-footed ferrets have dark feet and black eye markings that look like a robber’s mask.

The animals are nocturnal, live in burrow colonies and eat prairie dogs.

Reuters

Scientists are working to clone more black-footed ferrets[/caption]

They are the only ferret native to North America and were once believed to be extinct.

However, a rancher in Wyoming found a small population of black-footed ferrets in 1981 and they were caught for a breeding program aimed at saving the species. 

Only seven black-footed ferrets were bred and the living animals were closely related, which limited their genetic diversity and made them less resilient to disease and adapting to different environments. 


San Diego Zoo Global, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, the private pet cloning company ViaGen Pets & Equine and the conservation group Revive & Restore, are working together to produce more black-footed ferret clones.

The science could lead to cloning of other species that have already been engineered, including a Mongolian wild horse and an extinct passenger pigeon.

“Biotechnology and genomic data can really make a difference on the ground with conservation efforts,” said lead scientist Ben Novak of Revive & Restore, which worked on cloning the ferret and horse. 

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