Visualize the relationship between cancer and lifespan
Is it possible to bring back extinct animal species?
View a higher resolution version of this infographic.
Humanity has been tinkering with natural life for thousands of years.
We have also become remarkably good at this. To date, we’ve engineered bacteria to produce drugs, created cultures with built-in pesticides, and even made a glow in the dark dog.
However, despite our many accomplishments in the field of genetic engineering, one thing we are still working on is bringing extinct animals back to life.
But the scientists are I’m working on it. In fact, there’s a whole area of biology that focuses on resurrecting extinct species.
Using data published in Scientific newsthis graphic provides a brief introduction to the fascinating scientific field known as resurrection biology or disextinction.
The Benefits of De-Extinction
First of all, why bring back extinct animals?
There are a number of research benefits that come with de-extinction. For example, some scientists believe that studying previously extinct animals and examining how they function could help fill in some gaps in our current theories of evolution.
Deextinction could also have a beneficial impact on the environment. Indeed, when an animal disappears, its absence has a ripple effect on all the flora and fauna involved in the food web of this animal.
For this reason, reintroducing previously extinct species to their former ecosystems could help rebalance and restore shifted environments.
It is even possible that de-extinction will slow global warming. Scientific Sergei Zimov believes that if we were to reintroduce a woolly mammoth-like animal to the tundra, it could help repopulate the area, regrow ancient plains, and possibly slow the melting of the ice caps.
How it works?
The key element needed to recreate a species is its DNA.
Unfortunately, DNA degrades slowly and once it’s completely gone, there’s no way to get it back. Researchers believe that DNA has a half-life of 521 yearsso after 6.8 million years oldit is thought to have completely disappeared.
This is why species like dinosaurs have virtually no chance of becoming extinct. However, many organisms that died out more recently, such as the sleepmight have a chance of preservation.
As far as de-extinction is concerned, there is three main techniques:
It’s the only way to create an exact DNA replica of something.
However, a complete genome is required for this, so this form of genetic rescue is more effective with recently lost or endangered species.
② Genome editing
Genome editing is the manipulation of DNA to mimic extinct DNA.
There are several ways to do this, but generally the process involves researchers manipulating the genomes of living species to create a new species that looks a lot like an extinct species.
Because it is not an exact copy of the extinct species’ DNA, this method will create a hybrid species that only resembles the extinct animal.
A form of breeding where a distinctive trait of an extinct species (a horn or color pattern) is reproduced in living populations.
This requires that the trait still exists at some frequency in similar species, and the trait is selectively brought back to popularity.
Like genome editing, this method does not resurrect an extinct species, but resurrects the DNA and genetic diversity that gave the extinct species a distinctive trait.
Is it really worth bringing back extinct animal species?
While there’s a ton of buzz and potential surrounding the idea of bringing back extinct animal species, there are a few critics who think our efforts would be better spent on other things.
Research on extinction economy found that the money would go further if invested in conservation programs for living species – about two to eight times as many species could be saved if invested in existing conservation programs.
In an article in ScienceJoseph Bennett, a biologist at Carleton University in Ottawa, said “if [a] billionaire is only interested in bringing a species back from the dead, power to him or her.
Bennett added, “However, if this billionaire says it in terms of biodiversity conservation, then that’s dishonest. There are many species on the brink of extinction that could be saved with the same resources. »