Wednesday, August 5, 2009

On behalf of Ferrous, Eric, Popper, Sherlock, Boudicca, LeWeasel, and Tequila, I give thanks

For this great news about their cousins.

Yes, yes, the domestic ferret and the blackfooted ferret are not the same. But after living with some of these wonderful animals, it was one day sobering to check out the exhibit at the American Museum of Natural History and see that the blackfooted ferret display contained animals that don't quite look like the ones we see in the news report or here.

This is because of the founder effect -- what you get in a population that comes from a single ancestor or small group of ancestors. And the blackfooted ferret captive breeding program, while successful, has created a population descended from a very few founders. That means that the variations in color that created the somewhat blonder AMNH sample are now gone from the population.

You might not want blonder blackfooted ferrets -- hey, as long as their mates approve, it's none of my business -- but you have to wonder what other, hidden effects come with that narrowed gene pool.

Blackfooted ferret pic by Arizona Game & Fish Department.

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