Should we bring extinct species back from the dead?

in #nature7 years ago

I have good news and bad news. The bad news is that a bunch of really cool animals are currently extinct: dinosaurs, wooly mammoths, saber-toothed tigers, and my personal favorite: the Carolina parakeet. The good news is that we may be able to bring some of these animals back from extinction. But whether or not we should is up to debate. So how is that even possible in the first place? Well, unfortunately for any Jurassic Park fans that're watching, dinosaurs aren't going to be brought back. Instead, more recent extinct animals, like the passenger pigeon that lived in the 19th century will be resurrected. 

And that's because, in order to bring these animals back, scientists need bits of their genetic material that have been salvaged. And sadly, DNA from dinosaurs hasn't survived long enough to be used here. But for the animals that can be resurrected, they'll be more like hybrids than actual clones. See, the passenger pigeons that scientists are trying to bring back won't be exact copies of the originals. Instead, scientists would need to create a hybrid bird using the passenger pigeon's closest living relative, like the band-tailed pigeon. Simply put, this would work by changing the band-tailed pigeon's genome so that it has a few traits of the passenger pigeon. Essentially, the scientists would create a cell that is mostly band-tailed pigeon, but also a little bit passenger pigeon -- and eventually, that cell can go on to create an embryo and eventually an animal. So, we'd end up with passenger pigeon 2.0 -- not the real thing, but the closest possible. And the same thing might also be done with elephants in the hope of bringing back woolly mammoths. 

But this brings up a bunch of ethical issues -- like should we even try to bring these animals back in the first place? The hope is that, if any of these extinct animals could be brought back, they'd eventually be reintroduced to their natural habitat. But for a lot of these animals, that natural habitat no longer exists. What the passenger pigeon used to call home has now been replaced with houses, malls, and highways. And even more, resurrecting extinct animals might take resources and attention away from programs that would prevent even more species from going extinct as well. But perhaps the most interesting question is what we would even consider these resurrected animals. They would start off as hybrids -- but what would we call them as they begin to look and act more like the original species? In other words, would that be enough to say that the species is really back, or just that humans have created a really convincing replica? What do you think? Let me know in the comments below! 

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An interesting post on an unusual subject that raises many intriguing questions. I suspect that in the end it will come down to whether someone can make money on it.

Very interesting questions.
But for now, instead of an answer, I would like to ask an additional question: would future civilisations try to bring back a previously extincted Homo sapiens or would they be happy that this cruel animal had already disappeared from the planet long time ago? :)

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