Advances in mapping the genomes of long extinct animals of the past raises an interesting debate about whether wildlife conservation is needed at all, especially if scientists can just conjure up dead species like they were never wiped off the face of the Earth.
This seems to be similar to the plot of Jurassic park, where a bunch of hubristic ego-driven scientists re-introduce dinosaurs into the modern age, effectively playing God and usurping the natural order of things to suit their own will, but with dire uncontrollable consequences.
There are therefore many negative implications surrounding de-extinction, but here this article will cover five points about the real possibility and the ethics of de-extinction:
How possible is de-extinction anyway?
Due to how degraded and incomplete most samples of DNA are it would seem to a take a long time to amass enough DNA to complete a full genetic sequence for an animal genome (the genetic data found in gamete cells that are used in reproduction). However, after many samples of bone and pelt remnants have been collect it does indeed appear to be possible to resurrect the Tasmanian Tiger (Thylacine) back from the grip of death. So de-extinction may be a long process now but it is surely to speed up as technology advances and as more DNA samples are gathered.
The Rise of the Necrofauna
Britt Wray’s discussion of de-extinction lays the premise for many ideas around creating close proxies of dead animals. The idea that extinct animals can be born through living animals shows that de-extinction isn’t exactly recreating the same species, but it is reincarnating similar copies as the reborn species retains some of the DNA from its surrogate mother.
Wray also points out that de-extinction could be part of the extinction process for many currently living species, as why would society care about living animals when you can just replace them with genetically watered-down copies each time they die-off? De-extinction is a danger to living species and it could promote careless behaviour towards preserving the living if scientists are capable of raising undead franken-fauna.
The Positive Potential of Wildlife Conservation
Through the efforts of people who still care about the living, wildlife conservationist have managed to pull-back many species from the brink of extinction. For instance, living animals such as the Arabian Oryx, the Giant Panda, the Steller Sea Lion, the Echo Parakeet, the Large Blue Butterfly and the Tasmanian Devil have all been saved from near death.
Trying to revive long gone species takes away resources from preventing currently living species from dying out. Plus what would be the point of reviving a Passenger Pigeon if the environment it was so well adapted to is now a hostile place for the Passenger Pigeon due to the rampant effects of global warming. Moreover, a couple of quasi-mammoths in a zoo does nothing to completely repopulate the dying species that are needed to sustain our planet’s current ecosystem. Resources, time and money are therefore better spent on preserving the living, not the dead.
Knock-on Effects of Bee Extinction
Bees are currently dying off. Exposure to pesticides that kill animals that eat farm crops are also killing Queen Bees. This is bad as insect societies are matriarchal and centre around the survival of the queen who yields offspring for the next generation of bees. The insecticide thiamethoxam is a pesticide specifically aimed at killing insects, and is likely to kill off bee colonies where the queen is exposed to these dangerous and unnatural chemicals.
It is therefore crucial humanity protects the bees as this species cross-pollinates the majority of all plant life on Earth that constitutes the base of most known food chain. So without bees there are no plants and without plants there’s no food for herbivores and without herbivores there’s no food for carnivores. Thus if the bees die, the food and the majority of life on Earth goes with them including humans.
What do you think… Is science playing God with de-extinction? Do you think biologists should be more concerned about living animals dying off like the bees? Comment your answers below and please share this article to raise awareness for environmental and wildlife conservation!
Robert Lovell is a writer and editor with a love of wildlife and a passion for environmentalism. He is based in the north of England but loves to travel.
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