It’s been called the science of de-extinction–bringing extinct species, like the wooly mammoth back to life.
In 2003, scientists revived the bucardo, an extinct Spanish mountain goat. They did it by implanting a goat egg with bucardo genes and using another goat breed as a surrogate. While the species only survived for a few minutes, it was the first steps in de-extinction.
Scientists have also made efforts to revive the passenger pigeon, once abundant in North America before hunting and habitat destruction led to extinction in the early 20th century. And then there’s the wooly mammoth, an extinct species that’s most closely linked to today’s Asian elephant. The massive wooly species roamed Siberia 10,000 years ago. The re-engineered species won’t be exactly the same, but scientists are working on several similar mutations.
“The fact is humans have made a huge hole in nature in the last 10,000 years. We have the ability now and maybe the moral obligation to repair some of the damage,” Stewart Brand, founder of the Whole Earth Catalog and one of the world’s premier thinkers on the environment and technology, said in a 2013 TED Talk, according to CNN.
“Most of that we’ll do by expanding and protecting wild lands — by expanding and protecting the populations of endangered species. But some species that we killed off totally we could consider bringing back to a world that misses them.”
But while the idea is fascinating and conjures up images of dinosaurs roaming Midwest plains, it’s just not that simple. Of course it depends on the species, but where will these reintroduced extinct species live? Especially those that lived during periods of cooler climate? Could they survive in today’s climate?
And more importantly, shouldn’t we spend our time protecting the species that we have left? Especially considering that we’re going through a potential mass extinction. I wrote a while back that scientists have reported that plant and animal species are going extinct at a rate that’s nearly 1,000 times faster than normal. And as a result, scientists and conservationists are declaring that the 6th mass extinction is upon us. But the difference between this mass extinction and those of the past, is that in this case, humans are to blame as opposed to natural disasters.
We also don’t know how certain species would interact together. There’s a huge degree of just not knowing what would happen if you introduce a prehistoric carnivore back into the wild. Would it become almost like an invasive species that eats anything and everything, throwing the balance off in a particular eco-system? The bottom line is that it’s impossible to know what would happen. Scientists can research it all they want, but sometimes just because we can do something doesn’t mean that we should. But I must say, seeing a real life wooly mammoth roaming East Asia is about the coolest thing I can think of, even if it does resemble Jurassic Park.
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Wooly mammoth image from Shuttershock