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Earth Biotech Science

If Extinct Species Can Be Brought Back... Should We? 299

Posted by samzenpus
from the gone-for-a-reason dept.
retroworks writes "Rebecca J. Rosen interviews experts in this edition of The Atlantic, to ask about the ethics and wisdom of using cloning, backbreeding, or genome editing. Over 90% of species ever to exist on earth are no more. The article ponders the moral and environmental challenges of humans reintroducing species which humans made extinct."
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If Extinct Species Can Be Brought Back... Should We?

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  • Huh? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 31, 2012 @01:59AM (#41187109)
    Should we be brought back if we go extinct?
    • Re:Huh? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by lightknight (213164) on Friday August 31, 2012 @02:09AM (#41187153) Homepage

      Wonderful ethical question, but if the human race is known for anything, its the non-subscription to the magazine which ponders over such things.

      Someone will attempt to bring them back, now argue about how it should be done.

      1.) Any species we bring back is going to share the Earth with us for the foreseeable future.
      2.) Humans tend not to mix well with other species unless it's already fairly capable on its own. That's why rats, cats, and dogs thrive, while wolves, various forms of trout, and spotted owls are getting kicked in the teeth.
      3.) Chances are they will end up in a zoo. That sucks. Safe for human beings, ease of observation, but it's like never being able to move out of your parent's house.
      4.) We have no idea if they can even eat / process the food currently available. Bringing back the equivalent of the panda bear or koala might be great for entertainment, but we know nothing about their habits.
      5.) The only species we are likely to bring back are those which we consider 'interesting.' So the slug-like Macedonian newt, which squirts pus out of its eyes, probably isn't going to make it (made up species).

      If we really want to bring them back, it's going to require like a dozen Earths, one for every few hundred million years. We only have one at the moment. Perhaps we should wait until time-travel is in vogue, thus saving us a lot of work.

      • Re:Huh? (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Half-pint HAL (718102) on Friday August 31, 2012 @04:27AM (#41187687)

        If we really want to bring them back, it's going to require like a dozen Earths, one for every few hundred million years. We only have one at the moment. Perhaps we should wait until time-travel is in vogue, thus saving us a lot of work.

        You didn't even have to RTFA... you only had to read the summary. The article is about "reintroducing species that humans made extinct".

      • Re:Huh? (Score:4, Insightful)

        by jandersen (462034) on Friday August 31, 2012 @04:30AM (#41187701)

        I think there are more fundamental problems: epi-genetics or genomics or whatever the term is now is a very major factor in what makes up the traits of a species - the same set of genes can be expressed in many ways depending on how they are regulated, so it may not be as simple as reconstructing most of the genes of a species; perhaps they need to be 'booted up' in the right way too?

        • That would just mean we aren't as close to doing this as we think, it would simply buy us a bit more time until the exact same ethical question of "whether we should do it just because we can" have to be anwsered.
          • by TaoPhoenix (980487) <TaoPhoenix@yahoo.com> on Friday August 31, 2012 @08:32AM (#41189195) Journal

            There's a lot of early snark going on here. But they're missing an Elephant In The Room. What about the Religious questions? "God put them there, we killed them off, so of course we should do God's Will to put them back!" The article dares to mention "the natural evolution of Earth". Oh, I'm sorry, 41% (or whatever it is now) doesn't believe in evolution, right?

            New wrinkle. Watch them try to Patent the processes that create the extinct animals. Wanna see what that trial looks like? "The Samsung Grizzly looks too much like Apple's iBear! Cease and Desist and re-Extinct the Samsung Grizzly!"

            So if you're gonna get into ethics, get into ALL of them.

      • Re:Huh? (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 31, 2012 @05:18AM (#41187917)

        Wonderful ethical question, but if the human race is known for anything, its the non-subscription to the magazine which ponders over such things.

        Someone will attempt to bring them back, now argue about how it should be done.

        1.) Any species we bring back is going to share the Earth with us for the foreseeable future.
        2.) Humans tend not to mix well with other species unless it's already fairly capable on its own. That's why rats, cats, and dogs thrive, while wolves, various forms of trout, and spotted owls are getting kicked in the teeth.
        3.) Chances are they will end up in a zoo. That sucks. Safe for human beings, ease of observation, but it's like never being able to move out of your parent's house.
        4.) We have no idea if they can even eat / process the food currently available. Bringing back the equivalent of the panda bear or koala might be great for entertainment, but we know nothing about their habits.
        5.) The only species we are likely to bring back are those which we consider 'interesting.' So the slug-like Macedonian newt, which squirts pus out of its eyes, probably isn't going to make it (made up species).

        If we really want to bring them back, it's going to require like a dozen Earths, one for every few hundred million years. We only have one at the moment. Perhaps we should wait until time-travel is in vogue, thus saving us a lot of work.

        Wolves and other predators are generally not having issues because the don't do well on their own, they have issues because the directly compete with humans, and they did not develop firearms. Wolves are among the most adaptable predators ever, but if people shoot them because of their fear or hate (due premature livestock harvesting). That's hardly a case for deficiency on the wolves' part and more a case for humanity's wanton destructive capacity.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      We're not particularly tasty and we don't make cute fuzzy pets.If anything, we seem to be a bit of an asshole species. I see no reason any (presumably alien) civilization would bring us back apart from morbid curiosity or a similarly misguided intention.

  • Moral? (Score:4, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 31, 2012 @01:59AM (#41187111)

    I want my Dodo-burger and my Moa-burger too.

    They can wait with the elephant bird and the terror bird until I get peckish again.

    Gastornis parisiensis they can keep, I don't want them to tread on my feet.

    But more seriously, instead of editing the genes so that Californian Grizzly doesn't eat people, they could do some editing so that they can be employed to pick oranges, that would be the day.

    • Re:Moral? (Score:5, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 31, 2012 @03:11AM (#41187381)

      We have a moral, ethical and even culinary duty to find out what dinosaurs tasted like. For science.

    • Re:Moral? (Score:5, Informative)

      by SuricouRaven (1897204) on Friday August 31, 2012 @03:46AM (#41187531)
      No, you don't want Dodo-burger. The dutch sailors who first encountered the birds tried eating them, but concluded the birds were barely-edible and taste terrible. I'm not sure about moa, though.
      • Moa was apparently delicious... hence becoming extinct.
        • Don't be too quick to ascribe the extinction of the moa to human consumption alone. The dodo was probably made extinct by the introduction of the sailor's constant shipmate -- the rat -- to Mauritius. Rats are a major problem for any bird (particulary ground-nesting ones) as they really love eggs. We say the Maori hunted the moa to extinction, but isn't it possible that what did for the moa was the introduction of the kiore when by the Maori when they first arrived?
        • Re:Moral? (Score:4, Funny)

          by silentcoder (1241496) on Friday August 31, 2012 @07:08AM (#41188451) Homepage

          >Moa was apparently delicious... hence becoming extinct.

          I disagree with your premise. Chickens, cattle, pigs and sheep all exist today in numbers far beyond what they would have under natural conditions. The only logical conclusion is that being tasty to humans is actually an evolved survival trait (from the point of view of the species as a whole - not the individual members who get eaten).

      • Re:Moral? (Score:4, Funny)

        by daem0n1x (748565) on Friday August 31, 2012 @06:00AM (#41188111)

        No, you don't want Dodo-burger. The dutch sailors who first encountered the birds tried eating them, but concluded the birds were barely-edible and taste terrible.

        Nothing a few hours of boiling and a shitload of garlic can't fix.

    • by Nyder (754090)

      ...

      But more seriously, instead of editing the genes so that Californian Grizzly doesn't eat people, they could do some editing so that they can be employed to pick oranges, that would be the day.

      Whoa, slow down. if we get the bears to pick oranges, what are the illegals going to do?

      • Re:Moral? (Score:4, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 31, 2012 @05:14AM (#41187891)

        ...

        But more seriously, instead of editing the genes so that Californian Grizzly doesn't eat people, they could do some editing so that they can be employed to pick oranges, that would be the day.

        Whoa, slow down. if we get the bears to pick oranges, what are the illegals going to do?

        Well, we'll genetically engineer them to eat people, filling the niche left by the orange picking grizzlies and thus restoring the balance of nature.

      • by Lumpy (12016)

        Mow my lawn and tend to my petunias.

  • by drkim (1559875) on Friday August 31, 2012 @01:59AM (#41187115)

    If we're talking about my Mother-in-law, I think we all agree the answer is 'no.'

    • If we're talking about my Mother-in-law, I think we all agree the answer is 'no.'

      Yes, I know you're joking, but your mother-in-law is (was?) not a species. She was an individual belonging to a species.

      • by jamstar7 (694492)

        If we're talking about my Mother-in-law, I think we all agree the answer is 'no.'

        Yes, I know you're joking, but your mother-in-law is (was?) not a species. She was an individual belonging to a species.

        Have you met his mother in law? If she's like mine, she's a different species, too. So was my ex-wife. Definitely a psycho hose-beast.

        And no thank you, let them stay safely extinct, please.

  • T-Rex burger anyone?

    • Re:That's easy (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Nova77 (613150) on Friday August 31, 2012 @02:13AM (#41187165)

      My personal theory is that we killed all mammoths because they were delicious. Can't wait to taste one!

      • "My personal theory is that we killed all mammoths because they were delicious. Can't wait to taste one!"

        Actually, if memory serves, according to the paleontologists that is pretty damned close to the truth.

        • Re:That's easy (Score:5, Interesting)

          by jamstar7 (694492) on Friday August 31, 2012 @04:03AM (#41187611)

          "My personal theory is that we killed all mammoths because they were delicious. Can't wait to taste one!"

          Actually, if memory serves, according to the paleontologists that is pretty damned close to the truth.

          From what I understand, some Inuits ('Eskimos') have found mammoths frozen in glaciers, eaten them, and found them delicious. Only have anecdoctal evidence, though... They were pretty damned good sized, and one of them would feed a tribe for a couple weeks or so, so it was definitely worth Cro-Magnon's effots to hunt them.

          • "My personal theory is that we killed all mammoths because they were delicious. Can't wait to taste one!"

            Actually, if memory serves, according to the paleontologists that is pretty damned close to the truth.

            From what I understand, some Inuits ('Eskimos') have found mammoths frozen in glaciers, eaten them, and found them delicious. Only have anecdoctal evidence, though... They were pretty damned good sized, and one of them would feed a tribe for a couple weeks or so, so it was definitely worth Cro-Magnon's effots to hunt them.

            Check out straightdope.com. I can't recall specifically about Inuits, since a lot of mammoths are in Siberia, but not only local inhabitants have sampled mammoth. Some mammoths were discovered when people's dogs were found eating the odd trunk or limb sticking out of the landscape. And, if you're really obsessed with the idea, occasionally even non-native people have dined on mammoth. Just bring your checkbook.

            Not surprising, really. We have plenty of archaeological sites showing people hunt mammoths. Even

      • Re:That's easy (Score:5, Interesting)

        by ldobehardcore (1738858) <steven,dubois&gmail,com> on Friday August 31, 2012 @02:44AM (#41187285)

        While I appreciate the jest, I'm pretty sure that it wouldn't have mattered if the mammoth tasted like boiled gymshorts. They were FUCKING HUGE, and edible. Think about your least favorite food.... Now imagine that was basically the only food around, but in portions that weighed THREE FUCKING TONS. It's basically the only thing to eat, and if you don't like it, you can go without, get sickly, and die.

        • by Nova77 (613150)

          This might very well be true, but does not stop me from dreaming (and salivating at the prospect).

      • Re:That's easy (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Jane Q. Public (1010737) on Friday August 31, 2012 @02:47AM (#41187297)

        "My personal theory is that we killed all mammoths because they were delicious. Can't wait to taste one!"

        Which might actually be a decent reason to bring them back.

        More seriously: we have had bad enough experience with invasive species. Re-creating them, and re-introducing them, are two very different things.

        I don't see a lot of harm in the former, as long as precautions AND good isolation techniques are put in place. But I don't think, at our current level of technology, that the latter is even close to a good idea.

        Crichton's books were not anti-science; they were intended as warnings. We need to know a lot more before we attempt such things.

        • Re:That's easy (Score:4, Informative)

          by Rogerborg (306625) on Friday August 31, 2012 @04:33AM (#41187717) Homepage
          "Oooh, better not do that, it might go wrong" is "anti-science". The early 19th century Crichtons "warned" that travelling 30 miles in one hour by steam locomotive would cause our brains to explode. You can only reduce ignorance with information, not speculation.
          • Re-introduction of a species could destroy a habitat and/or kill off existing species. Are you seriously suggesting that being cautious about such an act is anti-science? And are you really comparing that to 30mph+ popping a few craniums?

          • Re:That's easy (Score:5, Informative)

            by ildon (413912) on Friday August 31, 2012 @09:11AM (#41189651)

            There was nothing anti-science about Jurassic Park. Taking a scientific discovery and making a fucking theme park out of it for profit without any idea of the repercussions was the problem in the book, not the genetic engineering on its own.

      • by eulernet (1132389)

        At least, that's the case of the Dodo:

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dodo#Extinction [wikipedia.org]

        • The dodo tasted rotten. The traditional myth says the dodo was made extinct because people were desperate for food, but there were other sources. The dodo probably went extinct due to predation of eggs by rats... who came on the same ships as the sailors we traditionally accuse of eating the manky dodo flesh.
      • by bloodhawk (813939)
        Given one or two seem to be dug out of the ice every now and then perhaps it isn't too late to get a defrosted Mammoth steak.
    • Plebs! Grass-fed free range Apatosaurus in the style of Kobe beef is where it's at (although, I shudder at the thought of how many gallons of beer you'd have to serve to that kind of beast... ^^; ).

      Also, count me in for some roasted dodo!

    • Dinachicken [wikipedia.org]!

  • by ModernGeek (601932) on Friday August 31, 2012 @02:08AM (#41187149) Homepage
    This has been beaten and debated in a three part documentary, with a fourth sequel supposedly in the works.
    • God help us, we're in the hands of engineers.
    • Well, as long we spare no expense we should be fine.
  • by AntiBasic (83586) on Friday August 31, 2012 @02:10AM (#41187155)

    If we exterminated a species, we have a moral duty to bring it back and eventually, reintroduce it to it's former natural habitat.

    • by GrpA (691294) on Friday August 31, 2012 @02:12AM (#41187161)

      And then make it extinct again when we decide it was a bad idea...

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      No, if we, as natural animals, cause the extinction of another species it is because it was unfit to survive and should be left extinct. Human beings are not outside nature and its methods of determining which species are worthy of survival.
      • by kanweg (771128)

        Or the people who drove it to extinction should be considered unfit because they clearly didn't' have the brain capacity to think that it is not wise to exhaust a source (i.e. handle not in a sustainable way). Unfortunately we can't punish them because they're already dead.

        Bert

      • by TiggertheMad (556308) on Friday August 31, 2012 @02:58AM (#41187339) Homepage Journal

        No, if we, as natural animals, cause the extinction of another species it is because it was unfit to survive and should be left extinct. Human beings are not outside nature and its methods of determining which species are worthy of survival.

        Mother Nature isn't some fucking primitive fertility godless, its a bunch of organisms living together. There is no conscious mind directing a divine order for things. If you want to being back something extinct, go do it. Don't give me this bullshit that 'it wasn't fit to survive'. We change the environment whenever we feel like it.

      • by aevan (903814) on Friday August 31, 2012 @03:09AM (#41187363)
        By the same token, if we as natural animals can restore an extinct species, it's fit to be brought back and so should be? If we're not outside nature and its method to determine what's worthy, then it's natural if we bring them back....

        Pretty sure all extinctions we caused were while tool-using, and now we've just got better tools. We're already past the natural stage of survival and propagation, and fully into the dominate and transform. This would just be the responsibility and restoration aspect. We've been playing god for a while now, might as well go full out and try the life-bringer part.

        Though if we ever cross that goal post we'll need to come up with a good antonym for extinction.
        • You're forgetting the effects of habitat destruction and the introduction of non-native species. Reintroducing many species would mean eliminating the introduced predators that killed them. Good luck in eliminating the ship rat from ... ooh... 90% of the world's surface.
      • by TubeSteak (669689) on Friday August 31, 2012 @03:16AM (#41187417) Journal

        No, if we, as natural animals, cause the extinction of another species it is because it was unfit to survive and should be left extinct. Human beings are not outside nature and its methods of determining which species are worthy of survival.

        Tell that to the North Atlantic Cod
        Or the Southern Atlantic Jack Mackerel
        Or the Atlanto-Scandian Herring
        Or the California Sardine
        Or the Pacific Yellowtail Flounder
        Or about 20 other species of fish who have been driven to the brink of extinction by overfishing

        It's one thing to drive a species to extinction by accident, it's entirely another thing to do it on purpose, out of naked greed.

        • no that is out of finding them tasty and good with fried potatoes. greed would be us killing them because we want all of the water they live in to ourselves.

      • by Xest (935314) on Friday August 31, 2012 @03:39AM (#41187501)

        This is somewhat true, but you've only got half the picture.

        The other half the picture is that if we continue to consume species to the point of extinction then we reduce biodiversity, if we reduce biodiversity continuously then eventually we become the ones at risk, and like other species, as you say, we are not outside nature.

        By making the concious decision to not whipe out, and to possibly even reintroduce species, then we maintain healthy biodiversity, and hence protect ourselves in the long run.

        Some people think that this would never be a real problem, but the collapse of fish stocks is already a major threat to some food supplies across the globe.

        Neither view is wrong, both are valid, the difference is by maintaining or even increasing biodiversity, we protect ourselves from nature choosing us as the future victims of natural selection due to a collapse in biodiversity.

      • No, if we, as natural animals, cause the extinction of another species it is because it was unfit to survive and should be left extinct. Human beings are not outside nature and its methods of determining which species are worthy of survival.

        ..and I assume that human's ability to bring them back also part of being inside nature and it's process to determine which species are worthy of survival?

      • by 1u3hr (530656)

        No, if we, as natural animals, cause the extinction of another species it is because it was unfit to survive and should be left extinct. Human beings are not outside nature and its methods of determining which species are worthy of survival.

        It's a very short slippery slope from this to eugenics and genocide.

      • by Patch86 (1465427)

        Human beings are not outside nature and its methods of determining which species are worthy of survival.

        By that logic, our ability to bring back extinct species (based principally on how cool they look) is also "not outside nature and its methods of determining which species are worthy of survival."

        You can either use the "we're all part of the plan" argument to justify everything humans do as a-OK, or you can accept there is no grand scheme and everything we do can have consequences- positive or negative.

        I say bring the mammoths back. We killed them, nothing else has filled their niche, and they're pretty awe

    • "If we exterminated a species, we have a moral duty to bring it back and eventually, reintroduce it to it's former natural habitat."

      I'm not so sure I would take that TOO literally. There is something to be said for evolution, and evolution does not, in itself, create a moral obligation to protect something against which you might be competing.

      But if you mean "unnecessary" extinction, due merely to ignorance or something like corporate profit motive, then I definitely agree with you.

      But not ALL extinctions are bad. That's how we got here.

  • Obligatory Carlin? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Xelios (822510) on Friday August 31, 2012 @02:10AM (#41187159)
  • by qbitslayer (2567421) on Friday August 31, 2012 @02:19AM (#41187189)

    I want to see a stone age man/woman brought back, or preferably a Neanderthal. I want to see if they are as stupid as modern thinkers believe. Just a thought.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I guess it might be feasible to bring some species of Homo back to life if there is DNA of sufficient quality available. However, we can never reconstruct their culture. Cro-Magnon was biologically identical to current man, but it's society would probably be quite different and would be the more interesting part.

    • The Neanderthal would probably take a look at our civilization and complain:

      Look, after all that we have done for you kids, and this is all that you come up with? We worked really hard to provide you with a good future, and we really think that you could have done much better . . . etc."

    • by Kergan (780543)

      I'd be more interested in knowing if they could interbreed with us. (Which is likely, since 1-4% of DNA in Europeans and some Asians might actully come from Neanderthals.)

    • Even if we manage to recreate a Neanderthal, how would we determine how 'stupid' they were? Would he receive a modern upbringing and education, without others making fun of his/her appearance before the tests were conducted?

      I'm pretty sure a modern human raised in a cage by Neanderthals would end up testing as pretty stupid.

    • I just read that analysis of the genetic differences between Denisova man and primates have been found, and are restricted to 23 genes only.
      This means that, theoretically, with some advances in techology, we could bring them back, and even all evolutionary steps inbetween.
      Apart from the zillion of ethical issues, this would be an interesting way to settle the discussion about human evolution once and for all.

  • by Lord_of_the_nerf (895604) on Friday August 31, 2012 @02:27AM (#41187217)

    We made a species extinct, then brought it back, then made it extinct again!

    No flightless bird f*cks with humanity.

  • by wonkey_monkey (2592601) on Friday August 31, 2012 @02:38AM (#41187257) Homepage

    If Extinct Species Can Be Brought Back... Should We?

    Last time I checked we weren't dead yet. And who'd bring us back if we were?

    • by aglider (2435074)

      The apes and the dolphins. Whoever evolves first.

      • by Artifakt (700173)

        The dolphins don't live on islands, they live around islands. They will need to be able to get onto an island to build Humanasic Park. They also are very far from evolving hands, which they will need to drive electric SUVs and push the buttons on UNIX systems. If the apes bring us back, they will chase us on horseback and make us wear dirty leather loincloths. I'm not seeing an upside to this.

        • by jamstar7 (694492)
          Well, the upside is, if the dolphins do bring us back, we'll get to teach 'em why we'd kill Flipper for a tuna sandwich...
  • by aglider (2435074) on Friday August 31, 2012 @02:39AM (#41187259) Homepage

    Did "Jurassic Park" teach nothing?

  • ... all the genome edits are open sourced.
  • by wombatmobile (623057) on Friday August 31, 2012 @02:56AM (#41187333)

    Ancient DNA has proven difficult to sequence or clone, because it is fragmentary, and most of it breaks down into single strands after it is extracted from bone.

    However, a new technique [sciencemag.org] developed at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, sequences single stranded DNA. Scientists just announced they used the technique to fully sequence Denisovan DNA from a bone fragment found in a cave in Siberia. They're going to go back to sequence their library of hundreds of Neandertal DNA specimens.

    How long before they make Dolly Denisovan?

    • The sequencing shouldn't be too hard. Just run it over and over, as many times as you need. You'll get lots of damaged sequences, but you can reassemble the complete one from all those damaged copies. The problem is that you are left with a digital representation of the sequence you need, and turning that back into DNA is a very difficult and very expensive process.
      • by Kergan (780543)

        The problem is that you are left with a digital representation of the sequence you need, and turning that back into DNA is a very difficult and very expensive process.

        That part isn't so hard or expensive, actually, and prices are dropping like a rock. A couple of companies offer gene synthesis services, in fact -- some for under $.5 per base pair. Also, the team that created the first artificial virus documented interesting techniques that should make synthesizing sequences of genes faster, cheaper and less error prone.

  • Messing with the ecology once again is just going to make things worse. However, I have nothing against bringing them back for exhibition purposes in zoos.

  • by Lotana (842533) on Friday August 31, 2012 @03:15AM (#41187405)

    Is it even practical to bring back an extinct specie? I am wondering how many individuals with varied genetic code is required to avoid the issue of inbreeding.

    Lets say I found two perfect genetic samples: One male and one female. I placed them into my magical DNA-To-Fertile-Adult(tm) machine, so now have two organisms set to reproduce. But then we run into a problem: Even if those two have 30 offsprings any further mating will result in genetic deterioration due to inbreeding.

    So we need to have quite a bit more samples. What is a minimum population count that we need to hit in order to avoid this? Could we possibly have that many different samples of an extinct organism to fulfil such a quota?

    • by Artifakt (700173) on Friday August 31, 2012 @03:56AM (#41187569)

      I don't have a source for this, but I seem to remember, in the context of a discussion about Cheetah evolution, the figure of 50 breeding pairs being suggested. It seems cheetahs passed through a period when there were very few of them alive at the same time, a near extinction phase, so that all cheetahs alive today are descended from the same small cluster of breeding pairs. The gestimate there is that 50 is about the minimum that a mammalian species might rebound insead of going extinct, particularly from accumulating lethal recessive genes during the bottleneck phase (I think that's what you really mean where you mention 'genetic deterioration' due to inbreeding). That's a figure the molecular biologists were basing on a complex calculation, particularly limited to mammals on the basis of the evidence they had as of the year 2000 or so, but it sounds like it would apply pretty well to Mastadons or Mammoths, and big predatory marsupials or birds are likely to not be too far from that number either. I'm pretty sure we could get some DNA from 100 different mammoths, less sure if we could narrow that number down by knowing what the mammoth lethal recessives are and screening for them all, or knowing where modern elephant DNA strings could be used to repair damaged samples, or any of the other suggested ways to get a decent sized starting population.

    • by GNious (953874)

      basically, you need to identify a related species, which can interbreed with your newly-recreated-specie and produce viable offspring. This would introduce sufficient genetic variance to ensure at least short-term viability.
      But yes, you should use multiple DNA samples, preferably across a significant area, to get a healthy population.

    • Is it even practical to bring back an extinct specie? I am wondering how many individuals with varied genetic code is required to avoid the issue of inbreeding.

      Lets say I found two perfect genetic samples: One male and one female. I placed them into my magical DNA-To-Fertile-Adult(tm) machine, so now have two organisms set to reproduce. But then we run into a problem: Even if those two have 30 offsprings any further mating will result in genetic deterioration due to inbreeding.

      So we need to have quite a bit more samples. What is a minimum population count that we need to hit in order to avoid this? Could we possibly have that many different samples of an extinct organism to fulfil such a quota?

      Actually, it wouldn't be genetic deterioration. The problem with inbreeding is that the same defective genes are being expressed over and over again as dominant traits. If those traits are before/lethal within the breeding phase, then eventually the population goes extinct.

      So actually, you want "deterioration" - mutation. Because then the resulting diversity raises the odds of long-term viability.

  • It appears to be the only way to bring back Earth to the Sapient Club!

  • by 140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) on Friday August 31, 2012 @04:07AM (#41187621) Journal
    The DNA sequence alone is not enough to recreate the extinct species. Even if we recover the DNA perfectly. The embryo development is a complex process. Unless you have a surrogate uterus at the right temperature that douses the embryo with the right chemicals at the right time, it would not develop normally.
  • I initially read the title "If Extinct Species Can Be Brought Back... Should We?", as asking if we humans should be brought back, after having become extinct. So I'm going to respond to that, but I think it'll apply to these other species as well.

    If there were someone capable of bringing us back, that all depends on that species. If their environment doesn't really benefit from having us around, then I wouldn't expecet them to bring us back. And with them being a species with similar capabilities as humans,

  • Chinese River Dolphin

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baiji [wikipedia.org]

    #1, it happened in my life time. It makes it more personal. It feels like someone could have heard a story about the dwindling dolphins around 10 years ago, traveled to China, and done something about it. This really is the case where ONE MOTIVATED PERSON could have saved an entire species. It could have been me. It could have been someone reading this words. WE fucked up.

    #2, these were intelligent, attractive, sensitive creatures. It's like killing your dog, or making dogs extinct.

    #2, China was not a basket case country ten years ago. Modern, rich, growing, proud. It could reasonably have been expected some Chinese somewhere would have cared enough to at the very least preserve a tissue sample, if not a breeding stock. We're talking about something that the Chinese for thousands of years marveled at, lived with, considered kindred water spirits, perhaps even worshipped. These dolphins feature in ancient Chinese artwork, something their ancestors gazed on and felt kinship with. It's an insult on your ancestors. China: you built a dam, ran some river traffic, polluted some more without thought, and poof: a piece of Chinese identity, a Chinese national treasure, something a part of the fabric of your ancient nation: gone forever. Out of neglect. The slightest atom of national attention and interest and resources would have saved the Baiji.

    There's a lot of bullshit nationalist chest thumping in the world, but really CHina: shame on you for this, shame on you. You fucked up. Fix it.

    How? I don't know, start with a Indian River Dolphin as a template and engineer. Find some tissue in some bones in the muck somewhere. Bring the Baiji back. You owe your nation this, you owe your ancestors this, you owe the world this.

    China, you fucked up. The insult is to your own nation and your own ancestors the greatest. And you have shamed and embarrassed yourself in the world.

    Fix it.

  • Okay, so they got them from Sweden, where they aren't extinct, but still: http://www.ospreys.org.uk/ [ospreys.org.uk]

    Reintroducing wolves in Scotland has also been talked about, but it's not clear how well that would work out.

  • Over 90% of species ever to exist on earth are no more.

    Clearly, George Bush and SUVs are to blame!

  • by Loki_666 (824073)

    Are they fracking mad? What a stupid question. Of course they should! DINOSAURS!

  • by ApharmdB (572578) on Friday August 31, 2012 @05:39AM (#41187993)
    We definitely should. We need to practice the technique. We'll need for ourselves someday. :)

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