20 February 2021

Ferret Clone

In the USA, a ferret was cloned from the cells of an animal that died 30 years ago


In the United States, scientists have successfully cloned a representative of an endangered species of black-legged ferrets thanks to the genes of an animal that died 30 years ago, the National Fish and Wildlife Service said in a statement. A ferret named Elizabeth Ann was born in December last year, but information about the experiment was published only now.


Elizabeth Ann at the age of 68 days – WM.

The researchers used frozen cells of a black-legged ferret named Will. As a result of their work, two individuals were born, but only one survived.

"Although the study is preliminary, this is the first cloning of a native endangered species in North America, and it represents a promising tool for continuing efforts to preserve the black—legged ferret," the scientists say.

The only thing that causes them concern is that the cloned ferrets will not have genetic diversity. This can make them susceptible to various diseases. All black—legged ferrets currently available in the USA are descendants of seven individuals. Therefore, ecologists are going to include any recently discovered black-legged ferrets in the captive population.

A small family of these animals was found in nature in 1981 on a ranch in Wyoming. Willa was one of the last wild individuals and had no descendants. The Wyoming Department of Game and Fish preserved his genes and sent Willa's tissue samples to the San Diego Zoo cryobank in 1988, where they have been stored all this time. 

Black—legged ferrets are a kind of weasel. They are easily recognized by the dark markings on their eyes. They are nocturnal and feed exclusively on prairie dogs. Other species that need cloning include the Mongolian wild horse and the extinct wandering pigeon.

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