De-Extinction Would Be Really Cool

Wooly mammothCredit: DreamstimeThe current issue of Science has an article on the costs and benefits of de-extinction, i.e., using biotechnology to resurrect species. The article by Stanford University scholars Jacob Sherkow and Henry Greely note that extinct species might be brought back to life by means of back-breeding, cloning, or genetic engineering.

Back-breeding would use selective breeding of species closely related aim at producing the phenotype of the extinct species, e.g., the Tauros Project is working to revive the auroch. Cloning could be used if a sufficiently well-preserved nucleus from the tissue of an extinct species could be tranferred into the enucleated egg of a similar species and then implanted in a surrogate. So far this has only been attempted with the recently extinct Pyrenean ibex. A kid was born but died of lung malformations soon after.

Perhaps the more promising, though more technically difficult route toward de-extinction, would be to isolate DNA from preserved tissue of an extinct species and then sequence it, e.g., a wooly mammoth. Then that information could be used to alter the genetic sequences in a closely related species, e.g., an Indian elephant, resulting in a wooly mammoth.

The authors observe:

De-extinction is a particularly intriguing application of our increasing control over life. We think it will happen. The most interesting and important question is how humanity will deal with it.

They suggest that some might object to de-extinction on the grounds that the resurrected creatures might be exploited, vectors for pathogens, invasive, examples of "playing god," or lessen people's concerns about extinction. On the benefit side, the authors them as ...

... falling into five categories: scientific knowledge, technological advancement, concrete environmental benefits, justice, and “wonder.”

To my mind, those benefits clearly outweigh the rather insubstantial objections cited by the authors, especially the last one. As the authors write:

The last benefit might be called “wonder,” or, more colloquially “coolness.” This may be the biggest attraction, and possibly the biggest benefit, of de-extinction. It would surely be very cool to see a living wooly mammoth. And while this is rarely viewed as a substantial benefit, much of what we do as individuals—even many aspects of science—we do because it’s “cool.”

Yes.

See below 1933 footage of the last Tasmanian Tiger.

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  • Pro Libertate||

    What would be interesting is to engineer life that never existed before. Like an elephant with a fully upholstered interior in which you could ride in style.

  • Counterfly||

    Or a python that shoots superheated steam out of its ass and can fly.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Just so long as it's designed only for cold climates, I'm in.

  • Counterfly||

    I figured they'd migrate from pole to pole.

    Eating everything in between.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Why not just giant python that could consume the entire planet?

  • Pro Libertate||

    Just some, that is.

  • Counterfly||

    Because I don't want to wake up Thor.

  • James Anderson Merritt||

    Would that be a Mondo Python, then? We could affectionately call him "Mondy."

  • ||

    I think the vectors for pathogens is a legitimate concern, but not one that should halt progress.

  • Pro Libertate||

    It's certainly a possible problem, though with really old extinctions, you'd think the bugs would no longer be adapted to the critter in question.

  • ||

    I think such concerns are par for the course from the pants-wetting schmucks who pander to the media, and the media itself. We're talking about 10,000 years here, not 65 million. I seriously doubt there will be any pathogen problems with something that, in evolutionary terms, existed yesterday.

  • Pro Libertate||

    I'm all about designing fictional animals, not some failed has-beens.

  • ||

    All hail the hippogriff, crest of house Libertate!

  • Pro Libertate||

    And I'd like some beholders floating around for security, too.

  • Almanian!||

    What is that - the butt of a hippo with the butt of a chicken? What a dumb animal! So - perfect.

  • ||

    I call dibs on the half chicken half squirrel.

  • Restoras||

    Jackalopes!

  • Pro Libertate||

    I saw a picture of one at Wall Drug, so they must be real.

  • CE||

    A picture? I saw one that was stuffed.

  • Pro Libertate||

    You're right--forgot about that. It's been a while since I got my free glass of ice water there.

  • LTC(ret) John||

    Fur-bearing trout!

  • AlexInCT||

    Corn speckled sewer brown trout!

  • Counterfly||

    Hey, the black plague was only like 150 years ago, and if it came back we'd be completely unprepared for it. I mean, I'm not vaccinated, you're not either probably

    I don't think we have stockpiles of vaccines. Probably wouldn't be anyone left but the Chinese, 'cause they're immune naturally. Which is why they didn't die the first time around.

  • sarcasmic||

    Yeah. Sure. If a disease that is spread by rat fleas came back, we'd be totally unprepared for it. With germ theory and pesticides and all, yeah we'd be totally fucked.

    derp

  • John||

    I think he was being sarcastic there.

  • Counterfly||

    I was hoping the 150 years would give it away, but I guess not.

  • Almanian!||

    Anything over 100 years old we don't need to worry aboout.

    /Ezra Klein

  • BakedPenguin||

    Actually, that made me think you were serious. There were a few break outs in the late 1800's to the early 1900's. I didn't realize you were doing a sad beard.

  • BakedPenguin||

    Ah, crap, it was Klein, not sad beard. I'm just going to quit while I'm behind.

  • ||

    There's a difference???

  • Almanian!||

    What Warty said

  • BakedPenguin||

    The black plague is still around, and so long as it's correctly identified, there are a few antibiotics that will handle it.

  • Almanian!||

    Why does no one fear the White Plague? RACISM - straight up.

    Also, fried chicken.

  • Brandybuck||

    Bubonic plague is still around, and people still contract it from rodents. And not in some third world countries either.

  • ||

    Hey! I haven't wet my pants all week, thank you very much.

  • ||

    Damn you squirrels. When I hit submit I was the only response and you bump me for Pro L?

    This shall not stand.

  • Pro Libertate||

    I've paid my dues.

  • ||

    What's that? A couple of nice Brazil Nuts, or do they expect the blood of the innocent?

  • sloopyinca||

    Brazil nuts? That's not what I remember hearing them called as a kid.

  • Pro Libertate||

    When some wild-eyed, eight-foot-tall maniac grabs your neck, taps the back of your favorite head up against the barroom wall, and he looks you crooked in the eye and he asks you if ya paid your dues, you just stare that big sucker right back in the eye, and you remember what ol' Jack Burton always says at a time like that: "Have ya paid your dues, Jack?" "Yessir, the check is in the mail."

  • ||

    Vectors for what pathogens, though? Extinct ones that might have thrived in its host millions of years ago, or are they worried existing microbes might might take up residence in the revitalized species? One of those questions is legitimate. The other shows a complete misinderstanding of biology.

  • ||

    I'm assuming existing microbes take up residence and then somehow mutate.

  • Brett L||

    Wait, what? Shouldn't we be more immune than anything that's been extinct?

  • Rights-Minimalist Autocrat||

    The invasiveness would be my biggest concern. You already get that when you introduce a non-extinct specimen to a non-native habitat.

    Like introducing the wrong fish to the wrong pond. The new fish takes over and eats all the old fish, or all of the old fish's food sources. Not really a problem if the new fish is tastier, though. So what I'm saying is we should only bring back species that taste good.

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    Haven't we already seen this movie?

  • Counterfly||

    The Island of Dr. Moreau?

  • Timrek||

    Encino Man?

  • Restoras||

    Animal House?

  • Almanian!||

    Jurassic Park (2-D)?

  • CE||

    Which was really more like Cretaceous Park.

  • Drake||

    This one will be called "Pleistocene Park". Turns out it's already a real place.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pleistocene_Park

  • Hugh Akston||

    Billy and the Cloneasaurus?

  • SugarFree||

    Oh, you've got to be kidding. First, you come up with an idea for a book that's already been done and then you give it a name that no one could possibly like.... one of the top selling movies of all time..... 50 weeks on the New York Times best seller's list, what were you thinking! I mean, thank you, come again.

  • Hugh Akston||

    Bringing back predatory megafauna would certainly help fight obesity.

  • sarcasmic||

    I'm looking forward to mammoth steaks at the grocery store.

  • Timrek||

    Larger steaks tend to be tougher. I prefer a small filet.

    Ohh...you meant a steak cut from the body of a Mammoth. Sure I'd eat that.

  • entropy||

    Larger steaks tend to be tougher.

    Baby mammoth steaks.

    Tastes like re-extinction.

  • Almanian!||

    nice

  • Almanian!||

    I just hate when they make my car tip over at the drive in.

    SO annoying.

  • LTC(ret) John||

    +1 order of bronto-ribs

  • cavalier973||

    Why revive mammoths, when you can revive DINOSAURS!!!

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/.....88988.html

  • Counterfly||

    Copyright issues.

  • Counterfly||

    I repeat.

  • Counterfly||

    Copyright issues.

  • Almanian!||

    Are there any copyright issues?©

  • Rich||

    De-extinct the Neanderthals.

    They can't do any worse than humans. And who could object? Diversity, don't ya know?

  • robc||

    They arent extinct.

    Unless you are from sub-saharan Africa, you are 1 to 4 percent neanderthal.

  • Rich||

    I *am*? Does that get me any special stuff from the government?

  • ||

    If you are from sub-saharan Africa?

  • Stormy Dragon||

    In particular, the red hair gene may be Neanderthal in origin.

  • Auric Demonocles||

    TIL I have a neanderthal fetish.

  • ||

    So did we rape the neanderthals or did the neanderthals rape us?

  • Auric Demonocles||

    The feminists got this one right: all the males raped all the females.

  • ||

    The real question is; Did this interspecial breeding drive mutations that allowed for the advancement of man kind? Do we owe the wheel, written language, the sciences and artisanal mayo to being buggered by or buggering a different species?

    Additionally can we still call ourselves Homo Sapiens when in reality we are a hybrid?

  • LTC(ret) John||

    I suspect buggery would not create much life, hybrid or otherwise - now rogering and/or rapin' just might have.

  • ||

    True, my vernacular regarding sexuality is apparently wanting.

  • ||

    Although after reading up on the Buggery Act of 1533 interspecies sex was indeed considered buggery.
    "In English law, "buggery" was first used in the Buggery Act 1533, while Section 61 of the Offences against the Person Act 1861, entitled "Sodomy and Bestiality", defined punishments for "the abominable Crime of Buggery, committed either with Mankind or with any Animal"
    Now would a Neanderthal be considered "Mankind"?

  • robc||

    As mentioned above, red hair.

    Is that not an advancement at least above the level of artisanal mayo?

  • ||

    I would have to say yes since my daugeter has red hair.

  • ||

    Red hair is unquestionably better than pus.

  • Drake||

    More specifically, De-extinct a dozen Homo heidelbergensis and form an unbeatable NBA team.

    http://www.thenakedscientists......rview/833/

  • James Anderson Merritt||

    Hey, I would like to meet and hang out with true Neanderthals, not the ersatz kind represented by Schwarzenegger and Boreanaz (though I'll bet those two could be mined successfully for Neanderthal genes -- I mean, look at them!).

  • -Umbriel-||

    Resolved: Dwarf mammoths would be the best household pet ever.

  • Almanian!||

    Dwarf Mammoth - the new Jumbo Shrimp

  • Brett L||

    If the book version of Jurassic Park is to be believed, they'd all be named "Bitey".

  • ||

    concrete environmental benefits, justice

    Why do so many see extinction as a bad thing?

    Species can't hack it, they get out of the way for those that can.

    I don't see why one would want to bring back a proven loser?

  • Restoras||

    Like Rex Ryan?

  • John||

    Close. But more like Greg Williams.

  • Counterfly||

    Something about 2008 and/or 2012 elections.

  • Almanian!||

    It was McCain's and Romney's TURNS!!

  • Pro Libertate||

    As world turn.

  • Zeb||

    No, extinction isn't inherently a bad thing. I still think it would be cool to see a woolly mammoth walking around.

  • ||

    I remember seeing the stuffed corpse of the last passenger pigeon in the Cincinnati zoo when I was a kid, right around the time that Jurassic Park came out, and wondering why the scientists hadn't fixed this bullshit extinction problem yet. It's good to see that they're getting around to it.

  • John||

    Bring back passenger pigeons, Tasmanian tigers, dodo birds, stuff that wouldn't be wildly dangerous.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Nah, go for the gusto. Megafauna!

  • Drake||

    Yes - I want to ride into town on a Songhua River Mammoth - not some hairy elephant no bigger than what the Indians already have!

  • ||

    Bring back all the North American megafauna. I want a sabrethooth tiger companion for my adventures.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Giant sharks. Giant sloths. Giant everything!

  • ||

    No, I only like tiny sloths.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Well, giant sloths start off tiny.

  • ||

    How about giant beavers?

  • AlexInCT||

    Stop talking about Warty's woman.

  • $park¥||

    No sabretooth tiger would be caught dead with you. They have standards.

  • ||

    Aw, but I made a costume and everything.

  • $park¥||

    Thus proving the point.

  • ||

    I want a sabrethooth tiger companion for my adventures.

    We got wolves now in my part of Washington state.

    Pretty sure if you started bringing back big predators ranchers would simply shoot me.

  • ||

    Oh, yes, and the Carolina Parakeet. It's bullshit that America has no parrot.

  • Pro Libertate||

    While we're at it, self roasting/sun-drying tomatoes. With garlic overtones.

  • Almanian!||

    I thought it was the Carolina Panther.

    Learn something every day.

  • DontShootMe||

    you can never bring back the dodo. See, for example, Episode 112 of Penguins of Madagascar, "Endangerous Species".

  • LTC(ret) John||

    Or "Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency".

  • Russell||

    Who needs de-extinction when growth hormone sequencing can combine with synthetic biology to supersize contemporary species?

    Why settle for last year's model mammoth when , just as designer patterned GM ray skins are already available on order from Thailand fish farms, clever GM can deliver an elephant trunk with grown in Louis Vuitton logos ?

    Why unleash irate raptors when we can have dayglow chamelions the size of dachsunds twostepping at our sides?

  • Brandon||

    We could re-make Lord of the Rings without any CGI.

  • $park¥||

    Great idea, until the Balrog gets loose.

  • ||

    Warty is already loose.

  • LTC(ret) John||

    Pssht, like a Balrog would stand a chance against Warty!

  • Mick Kraut||

    Has anyone run this past Dr. Ian Malcolm yet?

  • NeonCat||

    This week's Tiny Sepuku addresses this very issue:

    http://www.gocomics.com/tinysepuku/

  • sloopyinca||

    What was the most docile, hearty animal for consumption that ever lived? That's what we need to recreate just to watch the progressives heads explode as we end world hunger through science (as opposed to their way...eugenics).

  • $park¥||

    Enviros would be all over your ass for creating a life just to use for food. Besides, I'd be the answer to your question is cows. I don't think they're in short supply. Maybe you could engineer megacows.

  • Auric Demonocles||

    More efficiency would be better than just larger size.

  • ||

    Brontosaurus burgers?

  • Zeb||

    Or go full HHGG and engineer a sentient animal that wants to be eaten.

  • sloopyinca||

    You mean a horny woman?

  • cavalier973||

  • Stormy Dragon||

    If we're gonna start eating babies again, do we really need genetic engineering?

  • Brett L||

    The Aurochs got hunted to extinction, although the bulls could apparently be badasses.

  • Brandon||

    the shmoo?

  • CE||

    The woolly mammoth would probably appreciate being brought back to life, too. He's been frozen solid for 12,000 years.

  • ||

    The last benefit might be called “wonder,” or, more colloquially “coolness.” This may be the biggest attraction, and possibly the biggest benefit, of de-extinction.

    Kangaroos on mars would be way more cool then a woolly mammoth on earth.

  • CE||

    You though John Carter could jump!

  • sloopyinca||

    You know, I actually liked that movie.

  • Brett L||

    The Disney version or the one with Traci Lords as Dejah Thoris?

  • sloopyinca||

    The Disney one that just came out recently. I thought it was enjoyable and well-done based on the size of the story that had to be told in a limited time frame.

  • Brett L||

    And tiptoeing around the racist undertones of the source material. And if you thought the Greens were bad, just wait until you meet the Blacks in the next book.

  • sloopyinca||

    You mean these guys are in that book? Sweet!

  • Homple||

    In keeping with our emphasis on maintaining the failed at the expense of the successful, yes, by all means start resurrecting extinct species.

  • Auric Demonocles||

    I'm going to admit something... I didn't know aurochs were real animals. I thought they were a made up GoT thing.

  • RightNut||

  • Apple||

    I don't care how dangerous it might be, I'm ready to settle this "did T-Rex have feathers?" debate. Man, I want some big ass T-Rex feathers.

  • ||

    Marc Bolan definitely wore feathers at some point.

  • ||

  • db||

    How long does a zpecies have to be extinct before its cloning and reintroduction changes from "zoobiotic justice" to "introduction of an aggressive invasive species" that outcompetes the players in the existing ecology?

  • Auric Demonocles||

    If it went extinct there's a pretty good chance it won't outcompete.

  • db||

    I disagree. The longer ago the extinction happened, the more circumstances will have changed since then. Your point is taken for dinosaurs but maybe not dodos.

  • Gilbert Martin||

    How about some accelarated extinction for liberals, progressives, socialists, communists, marxists and all the other assorted lefty-ists before we concentrate on de-extinting anything?

  • SumpTump||

    Sounds like a sure fire plan to me dude.

    www.GoPrivacy.tk

  • jdgalt||

    Bringing back useful animals like the aurochs would be really cool. But not tigers or any other beast dangerous to man. We should be busy exterminating the rest of those, not bringing any back. They're not below us in the food chain, so they don't need to exist.

  • grey||

    Oryx and Crake. But despite the dystopian possibilities, I am for it.

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