Five Species Science is Trying to Bring Back
De-extinction has become a buzz word in the world of science over the last few years. This involves bringing back species that have vanished from the world’s ecosystems through cloning, genome editing or back-breeding. This brings back thoughts of Jurassic Park. Seems like it may not have been too far-fetched after all. Let’s take a look at five species we thought were gone forever but might make a comeback thanks to science.
For years, scientists have been working feverishly to bring back the wooly mammoth. Wooly mammoths are thought to have gone extinct about 1650 B.C. Since 1996, scientists have had the idea of cloning this fluffy animal. Over the years, they have tried to use the DNA of the mammoth collected from the bones, tusks and other body parts that have been found preserved in ice to create a mammoth genome and bring back this species. Bioscience companies have raised millions of dollars from investors to achieve this goal of de-extinction. In this case only time will tell.
The quagga was a subspecies of the plains zebra that was hunted to extinction in 1878. Like zebras, the quagga has stripes but only on the front half of their bodies. The rear half of their bodies is brown. The Quagga Project has been instituted with the aim of bringing back this animal. Through the process of back-breeding, where zebras were crossed to provide the desired traits of the extinct subspecies, the quagga was brought back to some extent. Only six of the more than 100 animals that have been bred exhibit the characteristics that distinguish quaggas. Efforts continue to bring the population to fifty.
3. The Moa Bird
The moa bird was a species endemic to New Zealand that became extinct about 700 years ago. These flightless birds could reach up to twelve feet tall. The emu and ostrich are said to be their cousins. Scientists at Harvard University have come close to reconstructing the genome of the moa in hopes of this animal’s de-extinction. This breakthrough hinges on DNA from a museum specimen. The genetic information from the emu will be used as a substitute for any genetic gaps. The process takes time but when it is successfully completed we can look forward to welcoming the moa bird back.
Aurochs are an extinct cattle species, said to be an old cousin of modern cows. The population of aurochs declined significantly due to hunting and habitat loss. The last aurochs died in 1629 in Poland. From 1920, there were attempts to bring back this species. This can be done through back-breeding. This involves selectively breeding existing cow species to get the desired traits. The expectation is that with several generations from this process, the desired traits can be obtained and the aurochs will once more be part of our ecosystems. Project Tauros seeks to make this a reality within the next two decades.
5. Northern White Rhino
The northern white rhino, which once existed in the thousands, is now functionally extinct. Najin and Fatu, two females, are the only two individual northern white rhinos in the world. The mother and daughter live at Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya. Scientists created some viable living embryos which they intend to use to ensure that this species doesn’t become extinct. Eggs were collected from the females and sperm from males that are now deceased. A closely related species will be used as a surrogate. This process takes time but scientists believe that it can be achieved.
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