Should We Bring Back Extinct Animals? De-Extinction Debate

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Should We Bring Back Extinct Animals? De-Extinction Debate

Post by Nordue » Thu Apr 11, 2013 1:45 pm

  • This article was presented for your viewing pleasure by
    Tonbei
    on behalf of
    National Geographic
    http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news ... bate-tedx/
    ---
    Scientists are debating whether to bring back vanished species.

    Jamie Shreeve
    National Geographic News
    Published March 5, 2013

    On May 6, 1930, a Tasmanian farmer named Wilfred Batty grabbed a rifle and shot a thylacine—commonly known as a Tasmanian tiger—that was causing a commotion in his henhouse. The bullet hit the animal in the shoulder. Twenty minutes later, it was dead. A photograph (http://tasphotos.blogspot.ca/2009/02/wi ... tiger.html) taken soon afterward shows Batty kneeling beside the stiffened carcass, wearing a big floppy hat and a young man's proud grin.

    You can't begrudge him some satisfaction in killing a threat to his livestock. What Batty did not know—could not know—is that he'd just made the last documented kill of a wild thylacine, anywhere, ever. In six years, the wonderfully odd striped-back creature—the largest marsupial carnivore known—would be extinct in captivity as well.

    The thylacine is one of 795 extinct species on the International Union for Conservation of Nature's Red List, which since 1963 has been tracking the planet's biodiversity. The animals and plants on the list are organized into categories of increasing degrees of urgency, from "near threatened" through "critically endangered," until you reach the last "extinct" group, whereupon the urgency abruptly plummets to zero. An endangered species is like a very sick person: It needs help, desperately. An extinct species is like a dead person: beyond help, beyond hope.

    Or at least it has been, until now. For the first time, our own species—the one that has done so much to condemn those other 795 to oblivion—may be poised to bring at least some of them back.

    The Question of De-extinction

    The gathering awareness that we have arrived at this threshold prompted a group of scientists and conservationists to meet at National Geographic headquarters in Washington, D.C., last year to discuss the viability of the science and the maturity of the ethical argument surrounding what has come to be known as de-extinction. Next week an expanded group will reconvene at National Geographic headquarters in a public TEDx conference.

    People were fantasizing about reviving extinct forms of life long before Hollywood embedded the idea into our collective consciousness with Jurassic Park. Can we really do it? And if we can, why should we?

    The first question would seem to have a straightforward, if hardly simple, answer. Scientific developments—principally advances in cloning technologies and new methods of not only reading DNA, but writing it—make it much easier to concoct a genetic approximation of an extinct species, so long as DNA can be retrieved from a preserved specimen. (Sorry, Jurassic Park fans, the dinosaurs lived too long ago for their DNA to survive until the present.)

    Where things get fuzzy from this "Can we do it?" perspective is in trying to pin down what it really means to revive a species. Is a genetically engineered passenger pigeon—the prime target of one high-tech de-extinction project—the same species as the bird that flocked by the billions in North America 150 years ago? Or is it a proxy passenger pigeon, alike in every respect, but not the real McCoy?

    When does a mammoth born from an elephant qualify as the species Mammuthus primigenius? When an individual survives for more than a few minutes of life? When it grows up and is introduced to another of its kind, and they make a baby mammoth, the old-fashioned way? Or can that budding captive herd truly be considered de-extinct only when it is reintroduced to its native habitat? And just what "native habitat" are we talking about here, since mammoths haven't been around to define it for 10,000 years?

    If we can decide when a species has been revived—for argument's sake, let's say it's when we can produce a healthy individual with more or less the same genome as the original species—we still have the weightier question of whether we should be doing this in the first place.

    On the Revival of Species

    Most arguments in favor of species revival fall into two basic camps: we should do it because we can do it. Why impede the progress of science, when the benefits that may accrue up the road are unknown? And we should do it because we have an obligation to do it, to right some of the enormous wrong we have done by driving these co-tenants of the Earth off the planet in the first place.

    On the other side of the debate, some conservationists argue that we should not be bringing back extinct animals when 1) We don't yet have any clear notion of how to reintroduce them into natural ecosystems; and 2) There are plenty of living species that are critically endangered. Why waste resources trying to resurrect the dead when we can use them to save the sick?

    De-extinction advocates have counterarguments for both those positions, as well as ripostes to the squishier criticism of species revival as a hubris-soaked attempt at "playing God." *(National Geographic Daily News will publish a point-counterpoint on de-extinction from Stewart Brand, its most vocal advocate, and Duke University conservationist Stuart Pimm, a prominent critic, next week.)

    Do we really need a reason to revive a vanished species? In my own experience, whether fans of de-extinction begin their justification from a scientific rationale or a moral one, they usually end by saying something like "besides, it's just such a really cool idea." It's hard to put your finger on exactly why de-extinction is so inherently exciting a concept, irrespective of any tangible benefit it may—or may not—have. Perhaps the excitement derives from the chance it affords to travel back in time and glimpse marvelous creatures from a world that no longer exists. Or maybe it's the thrill of cheating death, of reversing the ultimate irreversible.

    Whatever the foundation for the excitement, I am willing to bet that when a young researcher poses for a photo for the first time standing beside a revived thylacine, he or she will be wearing an ear-to-ear grin that will put Wilfred Batty's to shame.

    Where do you stand in the debate over species revival?
    ---
    Heeding to that last line, I now ask the WolfQuest community: where do you stand? Feel free to share your opinions here!

    *Need some ideas? Below are the links to advocates for both sides of the argument, as mentioned in the article.

    Opinion: The Case for Reviving Extinct Species http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news ... s-science/
    There are a lot of reasons for bringing back extinct animals, the author argues.
    Key points:
    • - preservation of biodiversity
      - restore damaged ecosystems
      - advance science/technologies that can help prevent future extinctions
      - reverse damage done by humans in the past
      - potential for new scientific development in the realm of extinction and species revival
      - gain a better understanding of why resurrected species went extinct
      - cloning technologies used to resurrect species can be used to save other close to extinction/ modify genomes of living species to increase their fitness
      - bring back keystone species can help restore ecosystems to better health with their services (ex. mammoths and northern grasslands)
      - raise public conservation awareness/motivation
      - resurrection = redemption
    Opinion: The Case Against Species Revival http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news ... vironment/
    Conservation of species still alive should take precedence, the author argues.
    Key Points:
    • - In order to keep some resurrected herbivore species alive, a large amount of tree species and individual trees would also have to be cloned and harvested in order to provide them with their natural diet
      - Resurrecting certain "charismatic" species vs saving millions of endangered ones
      - Where do these resurrected species go? Could be killed in the wild, expensive resurrection efforts then wasted.
      - Habitats have changed too much since species went extinct. What makes them able to survive on their own now?
      - Scientific opinion may go towards simply letting species go extinct, in the view that we can just resurrect them later if we want.
      - Potential pro de-extinction viewpoint: "Science can fix all of humanities impacts on nature"
      - De-extinction views will diminish the importance of ecology and filed biology education in universities
      - De-extinction a distraction from preserving the planet's future biodiversity
    WHAT DO YOU THINK?

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Re: Should We Bring Back Extinct Animals? De-Extinction Deba

Post by Koa » Thu Apr 11, 2013 2:56 pm

I do not think extinct animals should be brought back. While I do think it would be interesting to have a living, breathing, specimen from the past, it isn't realistic considering we have an entire, existing world to worry about now. The world of the past is not gone completely, but should remain beyond our ways to change or reverse because it is in the past. Some of these "key points," in my opinion, are ludcrious, i.e.,
Key points:
- reverse damage done by humans in the past
Isn't one of the most basic lessons in life go something like, "You cannot undo your mistakes, but you can learn from them?" While humanity has certainly made mistakes, both to humankind itself and the animal kingdom in general, it's like arguing that we should all invest a money in a time machine to go back and "erase" or "prevent" certain events in history from occuring, i.e., world wars or other controversial events that I will not name. We can only learn, not re-write the history books for the sake of "redeeming" ourselves as human beings. Which brings me to my next point --
- resurrection = redemption
Our mistakes should be owned and taken responsiblity for. If we caused something, we caused it because we did it, or we let it happen. Human "redemption" for bringing back an extinct animal shouldn't even be used to justify such. It fails to make sense.
- bring back keystone species can help restore ecosystems to better health with their services (ex. mammoths and northern grasslands)
The problem is that these species have been absent for so long, how would the modern world/ecosystem adapt? Just because something existed in the same place years ago does not mean it can thrive nor live again, and it would be extremely naive to think such. Considering all the mistakes we have made by either bringing in or allowing the introduction of invasive species (or species originally thought not to be invasive but ended up being such in their own right), I seriously doubt that introducing (an) extinct animal(s) is the logical thing to do if we can't even properly manage the species we have here right on this earth.

Each side both has its pros and cons, but I personally feel that de-extinction only hides the alterior motive to further empower the human race for the potentially wrong reasons, and seems too far-fetched for the "education" and "preservation" it promises in return.
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Re: Should We Bring Back Extinct Animals? De-Extinction Deba

Post by Nordue » Thu Apr 18, 2013 11:08 pm

  • I like your arguments Koa. For the sake of conversation, I will make a theoretical scenario for you.

    Say that de-extinction became a reality, a viable technology in this present time. If a species endemic to one area across the entire globe went officially extinct tomorrow, say, for a random cause such as a flash fire or a bad storm, would you condone the use of de-extinction to bring it back to that environment?

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Re: Should We Bring Back Extinct Animals? De-Extinction Deba

Post by Koa » Fri Apr 19, 2013 7:38 pm

Tonbei wrote:
  • I like your arguments Koa. For the sake of conversation, I will make a theoretical scenario for you.

    Say that de-extinction became a reality, a viable technology in this present time. If a species endemic to one area across the entire globe went officially extinct tomorrow, say, for a random cause such as a flash fire or a bad storm, would you condone the use of de-extinction to bring it back to that environment?
It'd depend on the animal and how many "preserved specimens" (what the article calls for) there would be after a fire that burns everything to ashes or a bad storm that washes the bodies away. Unless we're talking about ice preserving things (over eventual time); if a mass, non-eventual ("tomorrow") event happened that completely wiped out something, what's the probability of finding preserved specimens?
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Re: Should We Bring Back Extinct Animals? De-Extinction Deba

Post by Nordue » Sun Apr 21, 2013 5:15 pm

  • Oh, I totally forgot to add that you should assume that all the necessary biological "materials" are already in our possession, i.e., taken from a gene bank or some other type of biodiversity collection.

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Re: Should We Bring Back Extinct Animals? De-Extinction Deba

Post by Koa » Sun Apr 21, 2013 5:25 pm

Tonbei wrote:
  • Oh, I totally forgot to add that you should assume that all the necessary biological "materials" are already in our possession, i.e., taken from a gene bank or some other type of biodiversity collection.
It would also be wise to note that if "one" species was wiped out because of any of the factors you mentioned, chances are there would be other species that went with it, so it wouldn't be alone... which means you wouldn't be dealing with one extinct species, but multiple species, at the same time, which would probably make it an even more tedious/expensive, regardless of material availability or not. In that case, I would normally say no. It really depends on our expertise when it came to the matter and experience as a whole; however, you did say it became a reality/something viable, so perhaps.
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Re: Should We Bring Back Extinct Animals? De-Extinction Deba

Post by Nordue » Sun Apr 21, 2013 7:03 pm

  • When you put it into a truly realistic perspective, that is another good point Koa. Thanks for taking the time to answer here and read the article. If I can think of any more inquiries for the community, I will edit this post!

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Re: Should We Bring Back Extinct Animals? De-Extinction Deba

Post by Koa » Sun Apr 21, 2013 8:42 pm

Tonbei wrote:
  • When you put it into a truly realistic perspective, that is another good point Koa. Thanks for taking the time to answer here and read the article. If I can think of any more inquiries for the community, I will edit this post!
Thank you. It's interesting because when the subject of cloning is brought up, I've noticed in general people tend to associate cloning with just cloning animals. I would actually argue a good few are unaware of the extent of this different take (de-extinction) and its possibility.
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Re: Should We Bring Back Extinct Animals? De-Extinction Deba

Post by Redwalker » Thu Jun 27, 2013 7:50 am

I actually purchased a magazine by national geographic about reviving extinct species. I haven't yet gotten a chance to read through it, I only skimmed small parts of it, but this article has enhanced my curiosity. I'll be stalking this and will hopefully post again with my thoughts once I get a stronger opinion on the matter (Hopefully after I read through the magazine)
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Re: Should We Bring Back Extinct Animals? De-Extinction Deba

Post by Nordue » Thu Jun 27, 2013 9:48 pm

  • Yeah, do share with us what it said Redwalker! Maybe it will be similar to the online article, or quite different.

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Re: Should We Bring Back Extinct Animals? De-Extinction Deba

Post by Edme1 » Sun Jul 07, 2013 3:35 pm

Haven't we learned anything from Jurassic Park? xD

But, in all seriousness, I don't think it would be a good idea to bring back extinct species. Even when scientists try to introduce living animals to a new habitat, or try to breed a new kind of animal, it seems that something goes wrong. For instance, scientists tried to breed a type of honeybee that would produce tons of honey, but instead made an extra-aggressive killer bee.

If a once-extinct creature was introduced to a habitat, it could cause major problems. Perhaps it would compete with other species for food, or become a predator to an essential species.

Besides, some species became extinct for a reason. Take a look at the dodo bird - flightless and with virtually no natural defense, it was made extinct by cats and dogs that were brought into its environment. If we were to bring the dodo back, would it continue to get eaten by various predators? Unless we protected nearly all dodos in captivity, but I think it would be wrong to bring an animal back to life just so it can be viewed in a zoo.

Overall, I don't think things would turn out well if an extinct species was introduced to the world, but that's just my opinion. xP
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Re: Should We Bring Back Extinct Animals? De-Extinction Deba

Post by duskypack » Fri Sep 13, 2013 2:11 pm

Koa and Edme are right. Some extinct creatures had gotten extinct so long ago that their original habitat is gone. I think maybe animals that were extinct less then a hundred years ago may do better. But still, it may affect other animals. It could make even more animals extinct. Its not wise in my opinion.

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Re: Should We Bring Back Extinct Animals? De-Extinction Deba

Post by alethe » Sun Dec 22, 2013 11:37 am

I say that we shouldn't. It would be cool, yes, but most of those animals went extinct for a reason. Plus, I doupt they'd thrive well, espically with the climate changes.


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Re: Should We Bring Back Extinct Animals? De-Extinction Deba

Post by Chumpkins_ » Thu Feb 13, 2014 12:27 am

I don't think so, they wouldn't survive well, which is probably why they went extinct. Also, it could pose a threat to humans and other wildlife. But one clone wouldn't be that bad; we might have that with the woolly mammoth this year.
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Re: Should We Bring Back Extinct Animals? De-Extinction Deba

Post by Nordue » Mon Jul 14, 2014 10:26 am

  • It seems that de-extinction efforts are continuing to move ahead. This is kind of old (2013), but is a good example: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/20 ... 151044.htm.

    What I didn't realize before is that de-extinction could theoretically be achieved via selective breeding. Check this out:
    Wikipedia wrote:The aurochs, which became extinct in 1627, could possibly be brought back by taking DNA samples from bone and teeth fragments in museums in order to obtain genetic material to recreate its DNA. Researchers would then compare the DNA to that of modern European cattle to determine which breeds still carry the creature's genes, and then undertake a selective breeding program to reverse the evolutionary process. The intention would be that with every passing generation, the cattle would more closely resemble the ancient aurochs.[18]
    Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/De-extinction

    Cool! Would take forever though. Their wording of "reverse the evolutionary process" makes it sound neat, but it isn't technically correct. The population would simply be continuously evolving, just with artificial selective pressures. You cannot reverse evolution. Just wanted to clarify that from the quote!

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