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 Post subject: De-extinction
PostPosted: Mon Mar 25, 2013 2:07 pm 
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This morning on reddit I saw an article that Scientists want to bring 22 animals back from extinction which lead me to watching the Ted Talk Stewart Brand: The Dawn of De-Extinction which was really interesting.

It's not quite the Jurrasic Park scenario because we don't have the right kind of DNA to bring back dinousaurs but we do have enough to bring back species that were recently extinct all the way from the Galapagos Tortise to the Wooly Mammoth. They have already brought back a goat that was extinct and are working on the carrier pigeon. There are different methods for bringing back the extinct species using it's closest living relative. Stewart Brand even talked about changing part of a chicken's DNA to have this other bird's gonads and breeding it to form the extinct bird. He framed the whole talk by saying that humans were responsible for wiping out all of these species so it's our responsibility to bring the animals back and that the work can raise awareness and funds for animals on the endangered species list.

But I keep thinking about how the reasons these animals went extinct in the first place is because we took their habitat away and the earth is changing so rapidly who knows what will survive in the near future. Plus bringing a species back and releasing it into an ecology that can no longer sustain it can have all sorts of unintended consequences that we've learned about everywhere from the rabbit overpopulation in Australia to Jurassic Park. But on the other hand we could potentially fix systems that were relying on a niche species and potentially solve some other problems by reintroducing native species.

What do you think?

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 Post subject: Re: De-extinction
PostPosted: Mon Mar 25, 2013 3:07 pm 
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I think it is worrisome. We have seen time and time again that introducing animals to habitats where they currently don't exist can be very problematic. Look at the Capybara and Nutria in the SE US, beavers introduced into southern South America and snakes and various rodents introduced around the world into other habitats. How about the Carolina parakeet? Do we think that it a tropical bird could survive in it's former now non-tropical habitat? What would it do to current bird species if it was introduced?

I think it would be bad news as ecology has change, habitats have changed and climates have changed.

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 Post subject: Re: De-extinction
PostPosted: Mon Mar 25, 2013 3:15 pm 
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Seems to bring up the line from Jurassic Park about the scientists spending so much time asking if they could do it and not enough time thinking about should they do it.

I agree with linanil, there have been many examples of unintended consequences when introducing animals into a new area. Seems like something is bound to go wrong, or at least not in the way things are planned. Nature is never as simple as we think it is.


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 Post subject: Re: De-extinction
PostPosted: Mon Mar 25, 2013 4:53 pm 
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I think reintroducing native species that have recently gone extinct due to human activity is a great idea. Last week's Science Friday had a really good piece on bringing back the gastric brooding frog. They also discussed how the loss of the Tasmanian tiger has upset the Tasmanian devil population and is partly responsible for the spread of the fatal facial cancer among T. devils.

I haven't heard anything about establishing non-native species in areas they don't belong. Of that list, most have gone extinct in the past few hundred years due to human activity. So it wouldn't be crazy to reintroduce them. I would think the habitat of the Carolina parakeet has not changed enough in 100 years that it would be uninhabitable.

I think the stuff about bringing back mammoths, saber toothed cats, etc is a bit silly. I think it's mostly to get the gen pop excited by science.

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 Post subject: Re: De-extinction
PostPosted: Mon Mar 25, 2013 5:09 pm 
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Well it depends how recent, I think. I think 100-200 years is enough to cause a difference though and change the current local ecology. I'd be very, very cautious and not too excited. It is certainly enough time for natural predators to move on or adapt to other prey as well as other species to move in and establish their own habitat.

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 Post subject: Re: De-extinction
PostPosted: Mon Mar 25, 2013 5:19 pm 
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I think its not an all bad idea but yeah, we also have to consider whether there is somewhere for them if they are reintroduced.

Carolina parakeet might work its true, as its extinction was forced by snazzy hats 100 years ago, and possibly finished by a disease. We wouldn't have the hunting they were faced with in the past...until they hit our agriculture anyway. Which is why nothing hardly gets reintroduced anyway. Wolves are cool til they eat one cow and then they must allllll die.

Some might make us feel less guilty but might be useless...we can't ever raise enough at one time to get the populations up to what they'd need to be sustained. Then again, we don't know enough about them maybe.

Jurassic Park isn't evidence, its fiction. A lesson, maybe, but really, we don't know much of anything about dinosaur behavior and they might not have been as scary as we think for a horror sci fi.

I dont think that de extinct animals would be reintroduced elsewhere, besides in zoo type situations. This wont be like cats to fight cane toads to fight bugs.

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 Post subject: Re: De-extinction
PostPosted: Mon Mar 25, 2013 5:30 pm 
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Well, those changes certainly have happened, and they are probably all able to be linked back to human-caused.

I just don't see animals that were native here and went extinct becoming invasive. I mean, there isn't a huge difference between the efforts to save a species that wason the brink of extinction (like a california condor, there were only like 22 left) with one that already was extinct in the last 100 years.

That is a blink of an eye, really. Even 12000 years ago is rather short time span evolutionarily. It takes 5000 years for an evolutionary event but still, the time period is sososo small.

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 Post subject: Re: De-extinction
PostPosted: Mon Mar 25, 2013 5:41 pm 
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Again, I think it depends. I'm not a zoological expert though so I don't know. The California Condor also went nearly extinct fairly fast, didn't DDT have a part in their near extinction? If you had a population of thousands and then went to nearly nothing in a span of a couple decades, then I can see reintroducing not being a problem. I just would be cautious about something that hadn't existed in an area for a while.

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 Post subject: Re: De-extinction
PostPosted: Mon Mar 25, 2013 5:54 pm 
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Well on the SciFri program the evolution prof they interviewed indicated that is taken into account when they determine which species to resurrect, in part to fill a niche that's been left empty.
Linky: http://www.npr.org/2013/03/22/175054279 ... ck-to-life

The ag side is something I didn't really think about. Like I'm familiar with the hatred livestock people had for wolves and coyotes. I'm curious how that would play out.

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 Post subject: Re: De-extinction
PostPosted: Mon Mar 25, 2013 6:08 pm 
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Well they are still killing wolves so there is that. And although I think it is not the Eastern Mountain Lion, I have heard that Mountain Lions have returned to the East coast. I think the Eastern Mountain Lion did go extinct.

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 Post subject: Re: De-extinction
PostPosted: Mon Mar 25, 2013 10:24 pm 
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I should've said have, not had. Oops.

I mean it looks like most of the species are not higher order consumers. So I wonder if reintroducing a bird that would go after fruit would be as big a deal as people like to make wolves out to be. Or the Carribbean seal competing for fish. I bet that would be problematic.

I'd love to see the dodo come back. It's story is so sad.

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 Post subject: Re: De-extinction
PostPosted: Tue Mar 26, 2013 10:08 am 
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linanil wrote:
Again, I think it depends. I'm not a zoological expert though so I don't know. The California Condor also went nearly extinct fairly fast, didn't DDT have a part in their near extinction? If you had a population of thousands and then went to nearly nothing in a span of a couple decades, then I can see reintroducing not being a problem. I just would be cautious about something that hadn't existed in an area for a while.


The condor was actually a relict species. ITs main food source was very large carcasses, so it was mostly just holding on, because it evolved eating dead giant sloths and wooly mammoths, etc. There isn't much big enough for it except for the occasional bear or deer, and livestock.

Yeah, bringing stuff back from 12000 years ago is more iffy, but stuff that has gone extinct in the last few hundred years and caused by people could be brought back.

They have seen some mountain lions in the east, but its not the eastern variety. They are released "pets" or western cougars that have come back over. Genetically they are not the eastern variety, and since its been a long time since they have disappeared, its not likely they have good DNA. Florida panthers are closer related, but they wouldn't do so well up here.

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 Post subject: Re: De-extinction
PostPosted: Tue Mar 26, 2013 10:11 am 
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Also, I'd rather have mastodons on the prairies over cows. So there is that, both are not native, but at least mastodons WERE native.

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 Post subject: Re: De-extinction
PostPosted: Tue Mar 26, 2013 10:20 am 
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We could bring back the giant bison. Imagine buffalo as big as elephants wandering around.

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 Post subject: Re: De-extinction
PostPosted: Tue Mar 26, 2013 10:31 am 
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lycophyte wrote:
Also, I'd rather have mastodons on the prairies over cows. So there is that, both are not native, but at least mastodons WERE native.

Would people eat the mastodons than? Is it wrong to bring back an animal to hunt it?

I agree with bringing back the dodo bird, especially if they just lived on the island where they were from as opposed to in zoos all over the place. I wonder if they would learn to fear people now.

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 Post subject: Re: De-extinction
PostPosted: Tue Mar 26, 2013 10:53 am 
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I could see the hunting industry as having an interest. It wouldn't be too far fetched to imagine someone buying an island and putting sabretooth tigers on it for hunting purposes.

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 Post subject: Re: De-extinction
PostPosted: Tue Mar 26, 2013 3:51 pm 
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I think bringing back long extinct species is a bad idea for all the reasons people have stated. I mean yeah Jurassic Park is just a book/movie and is total fiction but I think it makes a really good point about you never know what nature will do and it’s completely unpredictable.
I also wish rather than bringing species BACK they would put that money into protecting species that are threatened NOW and their habitats.

However the argument of recently extinct species is an interesting one. This isn’t extinction per se but before we went to Yellowstone last year I read a lot about the eradication of the grey wolf in the US in the 1900s and the reintroduction project in the 1990s. From the wolf viewpoint and from the scientist’s viewpoint it was a big success.
Previously after all the wolves had been killed off it had a ripple effect throughout the entire environment from the top to the bottom. The population of elk which the wolves often preyed on exploded to the point where there was a lot of sick/lame animals in the herd and the population was out of control. I think there was also a lot of disease problems because the weak/lame were not getting picked off by predators. I think they had to institute yearly elk hunts to keep the population down (I think they still do this though). Also one interesting thing I read and I cant remember exactly what it was but because of the larger population of ungulates like elk and moose the trees were affected because they were out eating them and rubbing their antlers on them and it was having a bad effect on both the trees and the animals that used the trees for homes. For some reason I feel like beavers were effected by this but I don’t 100% remember.
Once the wolves were restored the elk population started to come down and balance started to return again.
Of course the wolves are super controversial out west. Some people absolutely hate them and want them all dead. But overall from a non-rancher perspective it was a successful program. The bears really like it to. They can be lazy jerks and steal the wolves’ kills.
Of course that was only 90 years of “extinction” and not several hundred and a complete environment change.

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 Post subject: Re: De-extinction
PostPosted: Tue Mar 26, 2013 4:05 pm 
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My opinion is that de-extinction is a stupid word. It should obviously be re-extantion.

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 Post subject: Re: De-extinction
PostPosted: Tue Mar 26, 2013 4:34 pm 
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Why make something that's been done before? Let's make something new and unleash it on ourselves. Let's face it we've had it coming for a long time anyway.

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Kent Brockman reads the news.

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Our top story, the population of parasitic tree lizards has exploded, and local citizens couldn't be happier! It seems the rapacious reptiles have developed a taste for the common pigeon, also known as the 'feathered rat', or the 'gutter bird'. For the first time, citizens need not fear harassment by flocks of chattering disease-bags.

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For decimating our pigeon population, and making Springfield a less oppressive place to while away our worthless lives, I present you with this scented candle.

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Well, I was wrong. The lizards are a godsend.

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But isn't that a bit short-sighted? What happens when we're overrun by lizards?

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But aren't the snakes even worse?

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But then we're stuck with gorillas!

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No, that's the beautiful part. When wintertime rolls around, the gorillas simply freeze to death.

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 Post subject: Re: De-extinction
PostPosted: Tue Mar 26, 2013 5:13 pm 
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Or just "reintroduction of an extinct species."

There was a good article I saw about a type of giant sloth that could be reintroduced (if they get get enough DNA from 10k year old dessicated poops) to help keep joshua trees from possibly going extinct.

If anyone is interested, there is a good book called "The Ghosts of Evolution." ITs a book about current species missing their extinct coevolved partners. ITs a good read!

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 Post subject: Re: De-extinction
PostPosted: Tue Mar 26, 2013 5:37 pm 
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Part of me is suspicious of meddling with nature when we seem unwilling to scale back our own horribly invasive ways of living with nature.

The other part of me can't decide whether I'd rather ride an auroch, moa or elephant bird to school.

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 Post subject: Re: De-extinction
PostPosted: Tue Mar 26, 2013 5:58 pm 
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LisaPunk wrote:
I also wish rather than bringing species BACK they would put that money into protecting species that are threatened NOW and their habitats.

this is about as far as i can get with this. the cart is being put well before the hagerman horse. assuming we're responsible for the extinction of whatever species are being considered for this sort of thing, if we aren't going to change the behavior or circumstances that led to the extinction, sinking resources into reversing it on even a very small scale is a waste, isn't it? and while some research group is reviving a species to much press and fanfare, how many are being driven into extinction without anyone really wanting to think about it at all? we should make things right for whatever's already living here to the extent that we're able, and then maybe we can think about making less necessary adjustments. there's a frustrating hypocrisy in the impulse that makes me want to flick the collective human ear.

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 Post subject: Re: De-extinction
PostPosted: Tue Mar 26, 2013 9:41 pm 
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lycophyte wrote:
Or just "reintroduction of an extinct species."

There was a good article I saw about a type of giant sloth that could be reintroduced (if they get get enough DNA from 10k year old dessicated poops) to help keep joshua trees from possibly going extinct.

If anyone is interested, there is a good book called "The Ghosts of Evolution." ITs a book about current species missing their extinct coevolved partners. ITs a good read!


That sounds fascinating! I will have to look into it.

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 Post subject: Re: De-extinction
PostPosted: Wed Mar 27, 2013 12:04 am 
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But in addition to habitat loss, a lot of species have gone extinct because of excessive hunting.

Obviously, there's a need to preserve habitats. I think this would be good exposure, actually, and get people more interested in conservation. My friend is working in S. Cal. trying to restore marshlands and no one gives a crepe. If you bring in the novelty of reintroducing extinct species, who knows...maybe it would help.

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 Post subject: Re: De-extinction
PostPosted: Wed Mar 27, 2013 12:45 pm 
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I actually JUST wrote a paper on this. I handed it in on Friday!

I really don't think this is going to happen for most species. Yes, they have already done it for the bucardo, but that kid died minutes after birth. For most species, we don't have anything related enough to use for cloning. If you did SCNT to produce a thylacine, for example, what are you going to put the embryo in? A possum? It's just not viable.

Also, I agree with mumbles re: re-extantion.

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