Tuesday 26 May 2015

De-Extinction: Should We?

Woolly Mammoth

Extinction happens when an organism or species no longer exists.  Gone forever!  Kaput! What if we could reverse extinction?  DE-EXTINCT these organisms.

Dodo Bird

Some scientists find the idea of bringing back to life long extinct organisms exciting!  They have experimented but without long lasting success.  The last wild goat, the bucardo or Pyrenean ibex, was officially announced extinct in 2000 with the death of Celia, a female bucardo.  On July 30, 2003, a team of Spanish and French scientists succeeded in cloning the bucardo but unfortunately the newborn died within 10 minutes.  It struggled to breathe due to its deformed lungs.  That was the bucardo.  How about bringing back organisms that had perished millions of years ago?  Do remember that DNA decays as soon as an organism dies.


Now with the availability of new technology, scientists are now optimistic that they will succeed.

What is de-extinction?  You may call it resurrection biology or species revivalism.  Basically it is the process of creating an organism (which is a member of or resembles an extinct species) or a breeding population of such organisms.  Sounds simple?  It’s not.  It’s complicated and complex!

There are mixed responses to de-extinction and a controversy is brewing.  What are the possible implications?

1. Scientific knowledge
    Offer insights into evolution & natural resources that are currently unavailable to us.
2. Technological advancement
   Big step forward for genetic engineering.
3. Environmental benefits
 Threatened or damaged ecosystems could be restored with the help of certain extinct      species.
4. Justice
  We owe it to these species to resurrect them if people are the cause of their extinction.
5. Wonder
  Cool to see extinct species brought to live.

1. Animal welfare
  Exploiting animals solely for human purposes & may harm the de-extinct species.
2. Health
  Species could carry retroviruses or pathogens when brought back to life.
3. Environment
 De-extinct species would be alien & potentially invasive due to their changed habitats &  food sources.  Hence their roles in these changed ecosystems could be too.
4. Political
 De-extinction may change priorities in other fields of science.
5. Moral
 Is de-extinction playing God, or just plain wrong? It may also have unforeseen  consequences.

Shared by Azni
Learning Specialist, Petrosains

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