Critically endangered ferrets reproduced using 20-year-old sperm
A near-extinct species has been reinvigorated with fresh genetic material donated by a male that has been dead for 20 years.
The black-footed ferret was discovered in 1851, but during the 20th century, its numbers declined. Its primary food source, prairie dogs, was on the decline, and both prairie dog and black-footed ferret populations were hit by sylvatic plague, a flea-transmitted bacterial disease. In 1979, the ferret was declared extinct. In 1984, a small population was found surviving near Meeteetse, Wyoming.
Since that time, a team has been working to revive a population that stems from just 18 founders. This latest effort, however, marks the first time that sperm more than 20 years old has been used to successfully impregnate animals.