Sunday, June 9, 2013

De-Extinction - Bringing Extinct Species Back To Life

De-Extinction: the process of bringing back extinct animals through various scientific methods including cloning, stem cells, cell reprogramming, ancient DNA, and hybridizing.

There are about ten animals that could possibly be brought back, among them the woolly mammoth, the passenger pigeon, and the dodo bird. Relentless hunting and loss of habitat along with failure to adapt are some of the reasons an animal goes extinct.

  • Scientific knowledge: De-extinction could offer insights into evolution and natural resources that are currently unavailable to us.
  • Technological advancement: De-extinction could be a big step forward for genetic engineering.
  • Environmental benefits: Threatened or damaged ecosystems could be restored with the help of certain now-extinct species.
  • Justice: If people pushed plant and animals species into extinction, perhaps we owe it to these species to try and bring them back.
  • Wonder: How cool would it be to see extinct species alive and kicking again?

  • Animal welfare: People could be exploiting animals for solely human purposes, and may cause individuals of the de-extinct species harm.
  • Health: Species could carry retroviruses or pathogens when brought back to life.
  • Environment: De-extinct species would be alien and potentially invasive; their habitats and food sources have changed, so their roles in these changed ecosystems could be too.
  • Political: De-extinction may change priorities in other fields of science, such as medical research and the conservation of currently endangered species.
  • Moral: Is de-extinction playing god, or just plain wrong? It may also have unforeseen consequences.

The Debate: Bring back extinct beasts or leave them extinct. Are we messing with nature? Are some animals and species destined for extinction? Should we rather focus on saving endangered species? Are we playing God? And just who is responsible for making these decisions? De-extinction is certain to be controversial for some. 

Did You Know? In the movie Jurrassic Park, they used ancient dinosaur blood found in a mosquito trapped in a glob of amber, extracted and sequenced the DNA, and spliced in missing parts with DNA from a frog to create the dinosaurs.  

Not So Fun Fact: In reality, dinosaurs will not be brought back because we cannot extract DNA from fossils, which are really fossil records made of rock formation and sedimentary layers. Bummer! 

You can follow the debate on Twitter with the hashtag #deextinction You can follow the latest and greatest with a debate with Ted De-Extinction conference.

Question: Do you think we should pursue bringing back extinct animals? Or should we just back off? Check out this quick clip ...