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Laboratory of Holly Ernest

Domestic Ferrets

Domestic Ferrets

Domestic Ferrets

Lab researchers: Kyle Gustafson, Holly Ernest

We are examining relationships between genetics and the high incidence of cancer in pet ferrets. The ferret (Mustela putorius furo) was domesticated from European polecats (M. putorius), transported to multiple continents, and has been artificially selected for several traits. The ferret is now a common pet, a laboratory model organism, and feral ferrets can impact native biodiversity. This work will provide critical information toward reduction of pain and suffering in these pets and also assist biomedical research that benefits human health.


Population genetics

Domestic ferrets are inbred on a global scale and have dangerously low genetic diversity. Ferret owners and veterinarians should be made aware of potential inbreeding depression and breeding programs should consider diversifying their genetic stock.




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Photo credit: Bob Church