An Associated Press article asks: Could science bring back the passenger pigeon?
The answer is Yes. Unclear on when. Surely 10 or 20 years from now. Sequence the DNA of a bunch of passenger pigeon specimens. Figure out which DNA sequences are due to decay of specimens. Generate good DNA sequence. Use another pigeon species for an egg. Implant DNA. This would be hard to do today.
Doing this with an intact genome that hasn't accumulated damage might be in the range of what a good lab could do today. But I suspect the genome would need to be constructed from lots of sequencing info. That's hard. If we can't use an existing intact genome then constructing one and getting the epigenetic state right is beyond our current technology. But in 20 years I think it will be possible and maybe sooner.
The more interesting question: Should we bring back any extinct species? For what reasons?
I can see a research purpose to bring back species in controlled conditions: Study their behavior and metabolism. I'm most interested in Neanderthals, Denisovans, and other human relatives. How smart were they? What sorts of personalities did they have?
Another reason: habitat restoration. Set aside some areas to revert to natural conditions and restore species that used to inhabit these areas. This has been done with wolves in the western United States as well as with other species on a number of islands where concerted efforts were made to wipe out invasive species and reintroduce native species. The same could be done with extinct species for which sufficient DNA can be found.
But I'd like to see an end of habitat destruction even more. Humans have destroyed the habitats of many extinct species. Remaining natural habitats have shrunk so far that other species still living in those still shrinking habitats are endangered and don't need the competition from reintroduced species.
Some species could only be brought back to live in zoos. There's not enough natural areas left for them. That's the fate that awaits some big cats and other species. Wild zones in Africa, south Asia, Pacific islands, and other regions continue to shrink in the face of growing human populations and growing demand for land, trees, meat, and other things found in the remaining wild zones.
I think we should concentrate on getting lots of tissue samples from current endangered species so that we will have an easier time bringing them back once they are gone. We need lots of samples so that they can be brought back with a healthy amount of genetic diversity. Then if a couple of hundred years from now should the human race still exist and with smaller numbers we could bring back some species.
|Share |||Randall Parker, 2014 July 19 09:28 PM|