Meet Elizabeth Ann, the first clone of a black-footed ferret and, more importantly, the first clone of an endangered species in the US. Elizabeth Ann was cloned from a ferret named Willa who died in 1
They were once thought to be extinct, but all the black-footed ferrets living today descend from just seven individuals – a predicament that gives rise to concerns about genetic diversity and disease resistance. The birth of Elizabeth Ann serves as a milestone for conservation efforts, as the young clone, made from frozen cells from a ferret that died 30 years ago, could amplify her species better than any other black-footed ferret born in captivity.
Additional images of the beautiful Elizabeth Anne. 🙂 pic.twitter.com/fz7HnwyI1F
– American Fish and Wildlife (@USFWSMtnPrairie) February 18, 2021
The fact that black-footed ferrets exist today is a miracle. Farming and urbanization brought the species to its knees, especially when American ranchers killed harvest-eating prairie dogs – the black-footed ferret’s primary food source. The current population descends from a family of black-footed ferrets discovered and captured for a breeding program in the early 1980s, years after scientists believed the species was extinct.
Elizabeth Ann is a clone of a ferret named Willa, who was frozen at the beginning of cloning science. Zoos and laboratories around the world hold samples of endangered and extinct animals, which could one day come back to life in gene pools of diversity or reintroduce a species to the world. Elizabeth Ann is, of course, the first clone of a US endangered species, and we’ll have to wait and see if this particular conservation method is really helpful or practical.
Source: US Fish and Wildlife