Welcome! This blog is being created by students in the courses Population Ecology and Biological Diversity at the University of Oregon. It is one component of their work, and for each course will unfold throughout the term. +Jessica Green & Ann Womack
Tuesday, June 11, 2013
De-Extinction: The Wrong Solution to the Problem
In 2003, scientists
set out to accomplish the unthinkable. Using cloning techniques, they transferred
fifty five bucardo embryos (an extinct sub-species of Spanish ibex, formally
known as Capra pyrenaica pyrenaica) to closely related species. The bucardo lived in the Pyrenees Mountains
for thousands of years before being hunted to extinction.By 1999, a single bucardo, a female named
Celia, remained.After her death, Celia’s
cells were preserved in labs until researchers removed the nuclei, injected
them into “blank” goat eggs missing their own DNA, and finally implanted these
eggs into hybrid mothers (Zimmer, 2013).Of these fifty five embryos, only one was carried to term, only to die
of respiratory problems ten minutes after birth. This short-lived animal became the first
animal to be born after its species
had gone extinct (Folch, et al., 2009).
(Learn Genetics, 2013)
Ten years later, the
technology to accomplish this feat has become both cheaper and better. Other extinct animals, such as the passenger pigeon
and the wooly mammoth, have the possibility of a new future with the help of “de-extinction”
tools (Zimmer, 2013). In his TED talk about “de-extinction”, Stewart
Brand (a leader in the field) highlights the growing international community of
scientists dedicated to using advancing biotechnologies to revive animals such
as the passenger pigeon or European Auroch (Brand, 2013). However, is de-extinction really the solution?
Will bringing back extinct species
really mitigate our impacts on biodiversity?
(Scienceray, 2011). Woolly mammoths -- coming soon to a zoo near you?
Brand speaks of a moral obligation
to undo the damage that humanity has wrought, but de-extinction simply gives
the extinct animals one more chance to be