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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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  • by wombatmobile (623057) on Friday August 31, 2012 @03:56AM (#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 [] 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?

  • Re:Moral? (Score:5, Informative)

    by SuricouRaven (1897204) on Friday August 31, 2012 @04:46AM (#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.
  • by Artifakt (700173) on Friday August 31, 2012 @04:56AM (#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 SuricouRaven (1897204) on Friday August 31, 2012 @05:07AM (#41187615)
    We killed bison with the express aim of making them go extinct. Part of the conflict between European settlers and the natives. As the natives in some regions were dependant upon the bison for food, settlers started an effort to kill the bison off. No food for the natives would make it much harder for them to fight.
  • Re:That's easy (Score:4, Informative)

    by Rogerborg (306625) on Friday August 31, 2012 @05:33AM (#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:That's easy (Score:5, Informative)

    by ildon (413912) on Friday August 31, 2012 @10:11AM (#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.

The shortest distance between two points is under construction. -- Noelie Alito