Researchers have successfully cloned a black-footed ferret, an endangered species, the New York Times reports.
The black-footed ferret is native to North America and was thought to be extinct until 1981 when a Wyoming ranch dog brought a dead one home, it adds. According to the Times, that population did well for a few years before being hit by canine distemper and sylvatic plague and the Fish and Wildlife Service captured the remaining 18 ferrets. As only seven of those ferrets passed on their genes, the current population has low genetic diversity, it adds.
But the Times notes that with the new black-footed ferret clone — the little one is called Elizabeth Ann — researchers at Revive & Restore hope to boost the population's genetic diversity. Elizabeth Ann's genes come from a ferret called Willa whose line died out, but whose cells were preserved as part of the Frozen Zoo effort, it notes.
"Biotechnology and genomic data can really make a difference on the ground with conservation efforts," Ben Novak, lead scientist with Revive & Restore tells the Associated Press. Revive & Restore also aims to bring back already extinct animals such as the passenger pigeon and mammoth, it adds.