Black Footed Ferrets rely on a robust prairie dog population for survival - unfortunately the already tiny prairie dog population is under attack from a flea-borne sylvatic plague. A vaccine has been developed (luckily prairie dogs aren't antivaxers), but getting it into the prairie dogs is non-trivial with attempts to date failing.
(Carnivora, Mustelidae, Oligobuninae) from the Early Miocene of North America
Alberto Valenciano1,2, Jon A. Baskin3, Juan Abella4,5, Alejandro Pérez-Ramos6, M. Ángeles Álvarez-Sierra1,2, Jorge Morales7, Adam Hartstone-Rose8,9
1 Departamento de Geología Sedimentaria y Cambio Medioambiental, Instituto de Geociencias (CSIC, UCM), Madrid, Spain, 2 Departamento de Paleontología UCM, Facultad de Ciencias Geológicas UCM, Madrid, Spain, 3 Department of Biological and Health Sciences, Texas A&M University-Kingsville, Kingsville, United States of America, 4 Universidad Estatal Península de Santa Elena, La Libertad, Santa Elena, Ecuador, 5 Institut Català de Paleontologia Miquel Crusafont, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Edifici ICP, Campus de la UAB, Cerdanyola del Vallès, Barcelona, Spain, 6 Departamento de Ecología y Geología, Facultad de Ciencias, Universidad de Málaga, Málaga, Spain, 7 Departamento de Paleobiología. Museo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales-CSIC, Madrid, Spain, 8 Department of Cell Biology and Anatomy, University of South Carolina School of Medicine, Columbia, South Carolina, United States of America, 9 Department of Anthropology, University of South Carolina, Columbia, South Carolina, United States of America
We describe cranial and mandibular remains of three undescribed individuals of the giant mustelid Megalictis ferox Matthew, 1907 from the latest Arikareean (Ar4), Early Miocene mammal fauna of Nebraska, and Wyoming (USA) housed at the American Museum of Natu- ral History (New York, USA). Our phylogenetic hypothesis indicates that Ar4 specimens assigned to M. ferox constitute a monophyletic group. We assign three additional species previously referred to Paroligobunis to Megalictis: M. simplicidens, M. frazieri, and “M.” petersoni. The node containing these four species of Megalictis and Oligobunis forms the Oligobuninae. We test the hypothesis that Oligobuninae (Megalictis and Oligobunis) is a stem mustelid taxon. Our results indicate that the Oligobuninae form the sister clade to the crown extant mustelids. Based on the cranium, M. ferox is a jaguar-size mustelid and the largest terrestrial mustelid known to have existed. This new material also sheds light on a new ecomorphological interpretation of M. ferox as a bone-crushing durophage (similar to hyenas), rather than a cat-like hypercarnivore, as had been previously described. The rela- tive large size of M. ferox, together with a stout rostrum and mandible made it one of the more powerful predators of the Early Miocene of the Great Plains of North America.
Black Footed Ferrets are endangered and extremely dependent on Prairie Dogs. While reintroduction programs have been underway for about 30 years, efforts have been damaged by a plague that is killing the already rare Prairie Dog population. One of the ways around this is to vaccinate the Prairie Dog population. It becomes a matter of distributed peanut butter laced with vaccine to the Prairie Dog population ... not an easy distribution task. Now drones might be used...