For those of you who don’t think science is moving fast enough, consider this. Scientists may soon have the ability to regenerate extinct animal species. The concept was recently discussed in both National Geographic (Apr 2013) and Time (15 Apr 2013) magazines. Man has always had the ability to destroy species through extinction, but soon we will be able to play God and re-create them.
But both magazine articles point out that Jurassic Park is not going to be a reality anytime soon. Researchers need intact DNA for de-extinction, and dinosaurs have been gone too long for for any genetic material to remain. But there is a very good chance that revival of animals like the woolly mammoth will soon be possble.
In 2003, European scientists were able to bring back a Pyrenean ibex, which had become extinct three years earlier. The resurrected animal, a clone of the last living Pyrenean ibex, didn’t survive very long, but new advancements suggest that success may be just around the corner. In January, Australian scientists developed embryos of the extinct gastric brooding frog.
There are arguments for and against de-extinction. According to Bryan Walsh (in Time magazine):
Although there are are undeniable benefits to reviving a species in theory, there’s no way of knowing whether, say, a passenger pigeon would be able to resume its old ecological niche or if it might even crowd out existing species. And environmentalists rightly worry that a reliance on de-extinction might erode support for the hard work of traditional conservation. Why worry about preserving wildlife habitat or fighting poaching if we know scientists can just reverse our mistakes?
But those extinctions are our mistakes to correct, which may give us “the moral obligation” to do so, as futurist Stewart Brand put it during a recent TED talk. “Humans have made a huge hole in nature,” he said. “We have the ability now . . . to repair some of that damage.”
But there is always the law of Unintended Consequences. Walsh suggests that we “proceed with caution.”
To see the very informative Stewart Brand presentation click here.