Experts want to bring animals back from extinction

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Copy of st extinction mammoth

AP

A 3D computer generated image of a woolly mammoth emerging from ice block. A DNA molecule extending from hair symbolises the fact that genetic analysis can be carried out from long extinct species.

London - Scientists have met to discuss the possibility of bringing back 24 animals back from extinction.

But a real life Jurassic Park is not an option, it is said, because dinosaur DNA is just too old.

The so-called “de-extinction” of a number of species was discussed at a TEDx conference in Washington DC sponsored by National Geographic.

They included the dodo bird, the Carolina parakeet, last seen in 1904 in Florida, and the quagga, a plains zebra which once lived in South Africa.

The last wild one was shot in 1870 and the last in captivity died in 1883, the Journal reports.

The teams chose the animals using a number of criteria, and discussed the ethics of bringing them back to life. They discussed whether the species were desirable, if they held an important ecological function or if they were beloved by humans.

Copy of st extinction woodpecker_COUNTRY_E1

A stuffed ivory-billed woodpecker.

AP

They also discussed if they were practical choices, and if there would be access to tissue with good-quality DNA samples or germ cells in order to reproduce the species.

They also considered whether they are actually able to be reintroduced into the world and what the reasons for extinction were in the first place.

This month’s National Geographic explains how de-extinction works – by taking old DNA samples and reassembling them into a full genome.

This is then injected into embryonic cells which have had their own DNA taken out, and a suitable living surrogate is found to give birth.

According to the Washington Post, 10 years ago, a team of scientists from France and Spain brought back an extinct wild goat – but it only lived for 10 minutes.

De-extinction does however raise a number of ethical and logistical questions, including how scientists can get a usable DNA sample from an extinct animal, and also whether they should.

Copy of st extinction quagga_COUNTRY_E1

German-born taxidermist Reinhold Rau looks into the case holding a stuffed quagga at the South Africa Museum in Cape Town.

AP

The cost of de-extinction varies by species but it is believed could run into hundreds of thousands of dollars.

It comes after scientists used cloning technology to attempt to bring back a frog from extinction by implanting a “dead” cell nucleus into a fresh egg from another frog species. The resulting embryos lived for just a few days.

But the groundbreaking research by the Lazarus Project has brought the “de-extinction” of creatures like woolly mammoths to the forefront of scientific discussion.

In repeated experiments over five years, the researchers used a laboratory technique known as somatic cell nuclear transfer.

Using a method similar to that imagined in the blockbuster Jurassic Park, they took fresh eggs from the distantly related Great Barred Frog, deactivated their nuclei and replaced them with genes from the extinct frog. Some of the eggs spontaneously began to divide and grow to early embryo stage – a tiny ball of many living cells from a creature extinct for 30 years.

Although none of the embryos survived beyond a few days, genetic tests confirmed that the dividing cells contain the genetic material from the extinct frog. – Daily Mail

l For information on the project to reintroduce the quagga, visit the website www.quaggaproject.org

THE FULL LIST:

l Carolina Parakeet was the only parrot species native to the eastern United States. Last wild specimen died in 1904 in Florida.

l Cuban Macaw, which died off before the 1900s.

l Aurochs is the ancestor of domestic cattle.They died off in 1627.

l Dodo, which lived on Mauritius.

l Dusky Seaside Sparrow, from southern Florida, was declared extinct in 1990.

l Labrador Duck disappeared between 1850 and 1870.

l Heath Hen lived in coastal North America up until 1932.

l Ivory-billed Woodpecker lived in “virgin forests” of the southeastern United states.

l Imperial Woodpecker may still be alive, but hasn’t been seen in more than 50 years.

l Great Auk went extinct in the mid-19th century. They lived in the North Atlantic from Northern Spain through Canada.

l Woolly Mammoth, which was related to elephants.

l Mastodon is an extinct species related to elephants.

l Moa were a giant flightless bird from New Zealand

l Elephant bird, a giant flightless bird, was found only on the island of Madagascar.

l Passenger Pigeon died out after living in enormous flocks throughout the 20th century.

l Pyrenean ibex lived in Southern France and the Northern Pyrenees, but died out in January 2000.

l Quagga, a species of plains Zebra, once lived in South Africa.

l Smilodon, the iconic saber-toothed cat died out about 10 000 years ago.

l Baji, a freshwater dolphin that lived in the Yangtze River.

l Thylacine, or Tasmanian Tiger, was a marsupial that lived in Australia, Tasmania and New Guinea until the 1960s.

l Steller’s sea cow is related to the manatee and dugong.

l Caribbean monk seal were last seen in 1952.

l Huia was a large species of New Zealand wattlebird.

l Moho were a genus of extinct birds from Hawaii.

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