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Bringing Back Extinct Animals? Yay or Nay?

Updated: Dec 21, 2023


Photo Credit: Unsplash/April Pethybridge

The Last Glacial Period, commonly known as the Last Ice Age or simply the Ice Age, began around 115,000 years ago and lasted till about 11,700 years ago. During this time, what is now Canada and Europe, were completely covered with ice. As was the Northern part of what is today, the United States of America. The ice-covered land was teeming with exotic mammals such as the saber tooth cat, woolly mammoth, dire wolf, and giant sloth. Unfortunately, the majority of these incredible animals were wiped out when the ice melted and the climate changed.


42,000-Year-Old Woolly Mammoth Calf. Field Museum, Chicago. Photo Credit: Vox.com

During the course of history, a large number of animals and birds have gone extinct due to various reasons. Overhunting and habitat loss are the two major causes of these extinctions. One example is the passenger pigeons who once blackened the sky in huge numbers for days. The last pigeon, Martha, died on September 1, 1924, in the Cincinnati Zoo. Another example is the Tasmanian tiger (Thylacine), a marsupial, that died of neglect in the Beaumaris Zoo in Hobart, Tasmania on September 7, 1936. The list goes on.


Passenger Pigeon. Photo Credit: scientificamerican.com.

Tasmanian Tiger. Photo Credit: phys.org.

But, what if these creatures were to be brought back to life? Like out of a Jurassic Park movie, just imagine witnessing a herd of giant wooly mammoths or caressing an adorable passenger pigeon in your palm! Who would not love to see them and enjoy? But is this possible? If so, how?


Deoxyribonucleic Acid (DNA)

DNA is the material in cells of all living organisms. It determines how the owner of the DNA looks like and functions. That is, it is the basic building block of all living things.

Scientists say that if they could extract DNA from a frozen mammoth and inject it into the cells of the mammoth’s closest extant relative, an Asian or Indian elephant, that they can create a living, breathing woolly mammoth! Similarly, other extinct creatures can be resurrected if scientists are able to find their closest living relative.


 

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Pros and Cons

For many, this sounds exciting indeed. Why not take advantage of these modern groundbreaking inventions? Surely, we can use these techniques to even save endangered species by altering their genetic properties. Is it not a win-win situation for all?


Unfortunately, there’s no simple answer. Because at the opposite end of the table, some experts say that if we clone a woolly mammoth or a passenger pigeon, the new species will not be 100% like the original, now extinct species. It will be a hybrid. Therefore, it may not survive the current, modern atmosphere. The new species may even hurt other wildlife in its environment. The process of resurrection of a species is also estimated to cost tens of millions of dollars. Even then, the result is not guaranteed.


Final Thoughts

Therefore, is it not prudent to use the same funds to protect the living species and devise means for preventing their extinction in the first place?

What are your thoughts? Let us know!


Did You Know?

A marsupial is a mammal with a pouch like the kangaroo or a koala. They are endemic to Australia. The Tasmanian Tiger or Thylacine, an apex predator, was also native to Australia.


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