De-extinction Scientists are working to bring back extinct animals

Glossary:

Hybrid: A combination of 2 things

Auroch: A type of cattle that went extinct

Implausible: Unlikely for something to happen

Thylacine: A extinct dog that lived in Australia that scientists are trying to bring back

Genome: Order of the DNA sequence of an organism

Ecology: Study of the environment

How do you bring back an extinct animal?

Currently there are three main approaches to de-extinction which are cloning, genetic engineering and back-breeding. De-extinction will not bring back the exact animal that there once was; however It is more of a hybrid of two animals. One way to bring back an animal is by back-breeding. In this process scientists find an animal that has similar characteristics to the extinct animal, then selectively breed those to animals in order to end up with a similar animal to the extinct one. Scientists are currently back-breeding the auroch, a type of cattle that went extinct. Dutch scientists, which are a part of the Taurus program working to bring back the auroch, predict they will have the first auroch in 7-10 years. Another way to bring back an extinct animal is through cloning. Cloning is the most difficult way because it requires a living cell, which is something scientist would have needed to save before the last animal died. According to Beth Shapiro, a Director of Evolutionary Genomics at the University of California Santa Cruz’s Genomics Institute, “In order to clone something, you need a living cell, so as soon as something has been dead for a long time, there is no living cell.” Cloning works by taking the nucleus out of the cell and putting it into the egg of a similar animal that would be a surrogate host. The third option that scientists could use to de-extinct an animal is through genetic engineering. Genetic engineering is lining up the genome of the extinct animal to its closest living relative and similar to cloning process use a surrogate host. De-extinction brings many scientific benefits.

2) What are the advantages and problems of de-extinction?

De-extinction allows animals that once helped the planet return and continue their work. Bringing back extinct animals could also be a way to help with conservation efforts by saving and bringing back the animal that are about to go into extinction. Reviving species also works for education tool as well. In 2005 researchers for the Center of Disease Control cloned the Spanish Influenza from 1918 in order to study and prevent epidemics. Some people also argue that some animals went extinct even as humans tried saving them, which could mean natural selection is taking place and that there is no way for human to help. “Humans themselves are part of nature, so it’s survival of the fittest,” said Joanna Radin, who is a science historian at Yale. For example, the as a conservation effort in 2009 scientist tried to mate the last four Northern white rhinos, but the animals refused. Some scientists also worry that the animals revived would suffer from poor genetic variation because there could be many offsprings from the same egg. Both the disadvantages and advantages cause de-extinction to be a very controversial topic.

Why is de-extinction so controversial?

De-extinction is a controversial topic because of the different viewpoints. According to an article published in the Worldatlas, some people believe de-extinction is wrong because humans are playing God by trying to bring animals to life. Others believe de-extinction is a waste of time and money. De-extinction could also be harming conservation efforts. According to the article, “Incredible Technology: How to Bring Extinct Animals Back to Life,” published in Live Science, “Congress to support the destruction of natural habitats, because animals that go extinct could be revived in a lab.” If there is an opportunity to create more species, some people might not care about how they treat animals especially those near extinction. Although some critics may claim de-extinction is the wrong approach to the situation, humans have a moral obligation to bring back extinct animals.

Is de-extinction the right thing to do?

It makes sense for humans to bring back extinct animals since many animals went into extinction because of humans. According to Helen Pilcher author of “Why Extinction Doesn’t Have to Be Forever Anymore,” researchers estimate that between 30 to 150 species go extinct each day, which is a 1000 times higher than prehuman times. Species go extinct because of illegal hunting and climate change, which are both caused by people. The Tasmanian tiger and Passenger Pigeon are both among species that have been hunted into extinction. Michael Archer, a paleontologist, stated, “And this introduces a very important ethical point, and I think you will have heard this many times when this topic comes up. What I think is important is that, if it's clear that we exterminated these species, then I think we not only have a moral obligation to see what we can do about it, but I think we've got a moral imperative to try to do something, if we can.” Resurrection biology gives humans a chance to fix their mistakes by bringing back animals that went extinct at the hands of humans.

What animals will be brought back?

Passenger pigeon, Woolly mammoth, and the Thylacine are among some of the animals that scientists want to see brought back. Not every animal that has went into extinction is able to be de-extinct, however they must meet certain criteria in order to be brought back. Douglas McCauley, an ecologist, and his colleagues argue that species must have a unique function, went extinct recently, and restore ecology functions on earth in order to be consider for de-extinction. The movie Jurassic park shows dinosaurs being brought back to life, however scientists are not considering dinosaurus among the species to bring back. Hank Green, who is an educator, states, “Let’s cut to the chase. Will you ever get to feed a baby stegosaurus? No. Sorry.” De-extinction only works for animals that went into extinction recently, because a living cell is required to bring back an animal and DNA will not remain intact for more than 6.8 million years. Overall, scientist are working to bring back animals they believe have impacted their ecosystems.

This video explains the history of de-extinction and all the different ways that an animal can be resurrected.

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