Wednesday, March 27, 2013

National Geographic: De-Extinction, including the Woolly Mammoth and the Thylacine

I've discussed the possibility of cloning from existing DNA to bring back currently extinct species. National Geographic discusses this possibility, as it the necessary knowledge and technology appears closer than ever. (Link Here: Reviving Extinct Species)

One item that concerns me stems from research I did way back in college as an undergraduate biology major. I recall from one paper that, with mammals, a breeding population of at least 70 individuals--not closely related--is necessary to avoid deleterious genes from adversely impacting the population, with a strong chance of causing the population's demise.

With this in mind, the question might become, are scientists actually bringing back the species, such as the Tasmanian Wolf and the Woolly Mammoth, or are they reviving museum specimens, to be studied and maybe displayed?

I even came across an article discussing reviving Neanderthals. Now wouldn't that effort be fraught with a multitude of ethical issues?

I think two of the factors that should be cosidered when determining if a project should go forward are:
1. If, over time, a self-sustaining population can be created/revived.
2. If there remains an area of the species' natural habitat that can maintain the revived population.

This article, in the UK Daily Mail, touches upon some of the 24 species being considered, and some of the criteria used. It, however, lists the thylacine (the only marsupial on the list) as living until the 1960s.

Article Link: Scientists want to bring 24 animals back from extinction (Dodos make the list... but dinosaur DNA is so old, Jurassic Park isn't an option)


  1. Fascinating possibilities, both for scientists and for writers!

    Great post!

    1. Yes, Dean, facinating possibilities, only dreamed of in my childhood. The ethics down the road do concern me a bit.