Παρασκευή, 5 Απριλίου 2013

De-Extinction Would Be Really Cool


Wooly mammothThe 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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