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 ...


  1. I suppose one must think seriously about the effect,moral. long term etc. It's strange you mentioned Jurassic Park, the Jurassic today I went to the Jurrasic coastine here in the UK.
    Enjoyed the read.


  2. Some have been gone so long, it would be dangerous to bring them back. As for playing God - never a good idea.

  3. I think it would be wrong. The world has changed so much that if we did manage to bring such animals back, they would be unlikely to be able to exist for long in current conditions. What are they going to do then, bring back one of each sex and reintroduce the species? We are having enough trouble not losing the animals we do have, particularly the rhino which is being slaughtered to extinction by poachers. Lets work on saving what we have.

  4. Hi Stephen .. as the professor in the clip said - it's difficult to stop science. Personally - what would we do with it, then them .. there isn't enough space for animals now ...

    However I can see the scientific value, but I'd rather we spent more time protecting and learning about life on earth now - protecting and caring for each species and type - far more important for us now ...

    Also educating and caring for humans - so that we can all exist together and so that humans realise we are just part of life .. we are not special.

    The future is interesting ... cheers Hilary

  5. Imagine a real live mammoth!! But I think their time is totally gone - poor things! I'd like to think we're better off actively stopping other species on the brink of extinction already from going the dinosaur way though - through education! Take care

  6. Just because we can doesn't mean we should.

  7. What happened in Jurassic Park is enough for me to say no, we shouldn't. That and what L. Diane Wolfe said.

  8. Amazing how many people are leary of de-extinction. Me, I slightly lean in the direction of yes. But the trick is not to birth these creatures, its to keep them alive and thriving which I do not think will happen.

  9. I'm kinda leaning on the side of a qualified yes. Some animals aren't extinct because of a "natural" process; they're gone because of gross human interference in the process. If it's within our capability to reverse the process, and thus, correct our earlier missteps, I wouldn't call that "playing God"... it's more like hitting the reset button and atoning for past sins.

    Besides, can you imagine seeing a live dodo or woolly mammoth???

  10. There's a season for everything. I think their seasons have passed. We should only consider de-extinction if there turned out to be a pressing need for it. Not just because we can and someone thinks it would be cool.

  11. I think if the species became extinct naturally, we should let it be. But perhaps in cases where man forced the species into extinction - through hunting or destroying their natural habitat - we could view de-extinction as righting a wrong. Interesting to think about.

  12. No; don't bring back extinct animals to bring retro-justice for human existence. I know I'm unpopular here, but I don't believe humans are a viral bacteria that is best eradicated from the earth. I don't believe "progress" is what is making the Earth die.

    The Earth is how many billions of eons old? Everything that lives eventually dies. Was it humans that wiped out the dinosaurs? or was it some universal, natural calamity?

    From my perspective, the past is the past. We should try to learn from it, but we should not try to recreate it. Certainly not as an apology to the environment for human intrusion. I don't believe in wanton damage of the Earth, but I also don't believe human consumption of cast off resources produced by the earth is the sole reason for its aging and eventual demise.

    Bringing back extinct animals - especially those of the dinosaur type - would be kinda cruel, both to the reanimated species and to the environment. You can set aside a natural habitat - like a zoo - but are you willing to expose or relocate the human contingent in the area? And what if the re-creations take off in their protective societies, and need more space or food? Do you sacrifice one protected species to feed another preferred species? Yeah; humans would be playing God to determine which species is worthy of living or dying.

    Just my opinion, ya know!