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Elizabeth Ann, the first cloned black-footed ferret and first-ever cloned U.S. endangered species, at 26 days old. Photo: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced Thursday that scientists cloned the first U.S. endangered species, a black-footed ferret duplicated from an animal that died more than 30 years ago.

Why it matters: Cloning could be a technique to help recover black-footed ferrets and other endangered or extinct species.

Details: The predator named Elizabeth Ann was born on Dec. 10 and is being raised at a Fish and Wildlife Service breeding facility in Fort Collins, Colorado.

  • She is a copy of a ferret named Willa who died in 1988 whose remains had been frozen.
  • Her birth was the result of a partnership between U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Revive & Restore, ViaGen Pets & Equine, San Diego Zoo Global and the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.

What they're saying: “Although this research is preliminary, it is the first cloning of a native endangered species in North America, and it provides a promising tool for continued efforts to conserve the black-footed ferret," said Noreen Walsh, director of the Service’s Mountain-Prairie Region.

  • “Successful genetic cloning does not diminish the importance of addressing habitat-based threats to the species or the Fish and Wildlife Service’s focus on addressing habitat conservation and management to recover black-footed ferrets.”

Of note: Black-footed ferrets were thought to be extinct until a Wyoming rancher discovered a small population on his land in 1981.

  • Those ferrets were taken by the Wyoming Game and Fish Department and others to start a captive breeding program to recover the species.

The big picture: All black-footed ferrets living today are descended from seven individuals, meaning the species currently lacks genetic diversity, according to the Fish and Wildlife Service.

  • That may make fully recovering the black-footed ferrets difficult.
  • A species that lacks genetic diversity can be more susceptible to diseases, genetic abnormalities and decreased fertility rates and may unable to adapt to changing conditions in the wild.
  • However, cloning may help address genetic diversity and disease resilience barriers for the species by introducing more diversity in the population.

Go deeper

Republican Sen. Sasse slams Nebraska GOP for "weird worship" of Trump after state party rebuke

Sen. Ben Sasse, (R-Neb.) Photo: Andrew Harnik - Pool/Getty Images

The Nebraska Republican Party on Saturday formally "rebuked" Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) for his vote to impeach former President Trump earlier this year, though it stopped short of a formal censure, CNN reports.

Why it matters: Sasse is the latest among a slate of Republicans who have faced some sort of punishment from their state party apparatus after voting to impeach the former president. The senator responded statement Saturday, per the Omaha World-Herald, saying "most Nebraskans don't think politics should be about the weird worship of one dude."

Cuomo barraged by fellow Dems after second harassment accusation

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo faced a barrage of criticism from fellow Democrats after The New York Times reported that the second former aide in four days had accused him of sexual harassment.

Why it matters: Cuomo had faced a revolt from legislators for his handling of nursing-home deaths from COVID. Now, the scandal is acutely personal, with obviously grave political risk.

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Fauci: Children "very likely" to get COVID vaccine at start of 2022

NIAID Director Anthony Fauci. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Children under age 12 will "very likely" be able to get vaccinated for coronavirus at the "earliest the end of the year, and very likely the first quarter of 2022," NIAID Director Anthony Fauci told "Meet the Press" Sunday.

Why it matters: Children generally aren't at risk of serious coronavirus infections, but vaccinating them will be key to protecting the adults around them and, eventually, reaching herd immunity, writes Axios' Caitlin Owens.