Weekly News Roundup 2/19 to 2/25


A black-footed ferret has been cloned, a first for a US endangered species

You’ve probably heard of Dolly the sheep. Now, meet Elizabeth Ann, the black-footed ferret. Scientists have successfully cloned an endangered black-footed ferret using preserved cells from a long-dead wild animal. This is the first time any native endangered species has been cloned in the US. The advance is a milestone for the conservation of black-footed ferrets, North America’s only native ferret. This species was once found over vast swathes of the American West, but they dwindled as farmers and ranchers eliminated their primary prey, prairie dogs. By the 1970s they were thought to be extinct. Then, in 1981, a ranch dog led scientists to a colony of 18 on a property in Wyoming. . . . more

Gone fishing: The fight to save one of the world’s most elusive wild cats

For more than a decade, wildlife biologist Tiasa Adhya has spent many a day in the wetlands and mangroves of the Indian states of West Bengal and Odisha, looking for signs of a rarely seen wild cat—the fishing cat (Prionailurus viverrinus). “Fishing cats are fascinating animals,” she says. “They have coinhabited riverine deltas and floodplains alongside humans for centuries. Ancient cultures like the Khmer empire show evidence of fishing cats.” As cofounder of the world’s longest-running fishing cat research and conservation project, Kolkata-based Adhya is dedicated to this endangered felid, one of the least-studied and understood wildcats. . . . more

Two Florida men arrested after TikTok allegedly shows unlicensed surgery on dog

Two men were arrested in Florida last week after a TikTok video allegedly showed one of them performing an unlicensed C-section on a French bulldog. Larry Colon allegedly paid an unlicensed man to perform the operation on his dog, Lyla, as his teenage daughter filmed it, according to the Lake County Sheriff’s Office. Authorities identified the man who performed the C-section as Frankie Huertas Rivera, who is not a licensed veterinarian with the state. An animal cruelty investigator visited Colon’s home in Clermont, about 25 miles west of Orlando, last week after concerns were raised about a TikTok video posted by Colon’s daughter, a probable cause affidavit said. The video shows a white dog being placed on a table and a man taking her puppies out from her as the dog squirmed in apparent pain. . . . more

Dogs are teaching machines to sniff out cancer

With their legendary sense of smell, dogs are adept at identifying the characteristic scents of cancers from breath, urine, and feces. But with trained cancer-sniffing pups in short supply, animals are unlikely to become widely available for routine diagnostics. Instead, Andreas Mershin, PhD, wants man’s best friend to teach machine learning algorithms to sniff out diseases, and he plans to put this technology into your pocket. Mershin, a research scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Center for Bits and Atoms, says his eventual goal is to build electronic nose capability into smartphones. The detection of a cancer signal by electronic noses isn’t a new concept, but those that have been developed so far still can’t match the accuracy of dog’s, says Mershin. . . . more

New companion-animal nutrition certificate draws pet professionals, enthusiasts

When Lizzy Geary began contemplating graduate programs for companion-animal nutrition, she knew she needed an edge. As an undergraduate in the Department of Animal Sciences at the University of Illinois, she heard of a new certificate program that would set her apart from the rest. Fast forward to the spring of 2020: Geary and classmate Kelly Sieja became the first two students to complete the new Companion Animal Nutrition certificate at the University of Illinois. Now, at the end of the program’s first year, 30 more students have completed the specialized training, and are poised to enter veterinary school, graduate school, or otherwise advance in their careers. . . . more

Photo credit: © carenas1/iStock/Getty Images Plus via Getty Images

NEWStat Advancements & research