“Meet Elizabeth Ann: The Cloned Ferret”

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Madelyn Miel, Staff Writer

On December 10th, 2020, scientists in Colorado welcomed Elizabeth Ann the ferret  to the world. Elizabeth Ann was one of the first to be cloned as a US endangered species. Elizabeth, a black-footed ferret, was cloned from a ferret named Willia who died in the mid-1980s.

These native ferrets were thought to be extinct in the 1970s. Their existence had been threatened as prairie dog populations (the ferrets’ main source of food) dropped due to farming and ranching taking over prairies (phys.org). But in 1981, a ranch dog led scientists to a colony of 18 ferrets! These found survivors became a part of the breeding program managed by the US Fish and Wildlife Service in Colorado.  Since then, some have been reintroduced in 8 states while 7 of the original ferrets were bred. This leads to not much genetic diversity, which is not good. With not much genetic diversity, it can lead to extinction…

How is this relevant? This is relevant because Elizabeth, who is Willia’s clone, will not have much genetic variation when bred. But scientists are hoping to breed Elizabeth and inject the needed genetic diversity.

The cloning was made possible due to the original ferret, Willia, who had skin cells that were then turned into stem cells which is viable for cloning (Stem cells are cells that can be turned into other cells that were damaged such as nerve or blood cells). Elizabeth isn’t the first to be cloned: a popular one is Dolly the Sheep. Hopefully, this information over the course of years will widen scientists’ abilities to clone other animals that are endangered.  Let’s just stay away from dinosaurs…please….

Info from: https://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/article/black-footed-ferret-clone-conservation-milestone 

When Elizabeth was announced:

https://www.ksby.com/news/national-news/1st-clone-of-us-endangered-species-a-ferret-announced 

Stem cells:

https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/bone-marrow-transplant/in-depth/stem-cells/art-20048117 

Image from:

https://www.cnn.com/2021/02/19/us/elizabeth-ann-ferret-cloned-scli-intl-scn/index.html