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Scientists To Breed the Auroch From Extinction 277

ImNotARealPerson writes "Scientists in Italy are hoping to breed back from extinction the mighty auroch, a bovine species which has been extinct since 1627. The auroch weighed 2,200 pounds (1000kg) and its shoulders stood at 6'6". The beasts once roamed most of Asia and northern Africa. The animal was depicted in cave paintings and Julius Caesar described it as being a little less in size than an elephant. A member of the Consortium for Experimental Biotechnology suggests that 99% of the auroch's DNA can be recreated from genetic material found in surviving bone material. Wikipedia mentions that researchers in Poland are working on the same problem."
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Scientists To Breed the Auroch From Extinction

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  • 99%? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by telomerewhythere ( 1493937 ) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @12:32AM (#30842192)

    I know it's no longer accurate, but for the longest geneticists thought humans and chimps were 99% similar genetically.... but there does seem to be a gulf...

    OTOH, in unrelated cow developments, (not new) is the Super Cow []

  • by ChromeAeonium ( 1026952 ) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @12:33AM (#30842196)

    Why is it that every time something neat in biology comes up, the first thing everyone says is 'What could possibly go wrong' implying, of course, that something exceptionally negative will come about as a result of it? Jeepers, this thing only died out four centuries ago. They're not going to hunt you down [] in trained squads.

  • Re:Is 99% enough? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Daniel Dvorkin ( 106857 ) * on Thursday January 21, 2010 @12:40AM (#30842252) Homepage Journal

    Presumably, it depends on which 99% they've recovered. If it includes all or most of the genes that make an aurochs an aurochs rather than Bessie, they're good to go.

    Also, TFA says they're not trying to create an aurochs genome de novo. They're carefully breeding modern cattle to try to get a genome that's as close as possible to the reconstructed aurochs genome. So the intermediate generations may not be aurochs, exactly, but they won't be nonviable; they'll just be different breeds of cow.

  • by cgenman ( 325138 ) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @12:43AM (#30842270) Homepage

    A bit offtopic, I know, but can we please stop referring to everyone and everything as scientists? If you need better terms, try "Geneticists" or "Breeders" or "Italians." Saying that Scientists are going to do it is an overused catch-all phrase that doesn't actually add any information. What, could it have been that Creationists were going to breed the auroch from extinction? Linguists? Liberal arts majors?

  • by Dunx ( 23729 ) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @12:56AM (#30842382) Homepage

    This is great and all, but it's also something that the Nazis were doing before WWII - there are quite a lot of these Heck cattle still around. There was even a radio programme on the BBC about it a week or so ago. []

    Maybe the Italians and the Poles are using a technique closer to cloning, but why then talk about breeding back - the same methodology that the Hecks used?

  • by Tigersmind ( 1549183 ) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @01:09AM (#30842486)

    ... does not mean you should.

    Have these scientists contemplated what could happen if these created creatures escape into the wild breeding amongst themselves and/or other similar species.

    Whole ecosystems can be destroyed by introducing one creature into them.

    You know, this argument is getting old for me. Anything that could progress human knowledge is looked down on anymore with an excuse like this one. I for one want to see real scientific advancement. I want genetic research on ALL levels. Lets bring back species that was destroyed by man, lets cure cancer, lets do SOMETHING.

    A day will come when advancements in medicine/science will be had and everyone will then wonder why we waited so long.

  • Re:Yum (Score:3, Insightful)

    by obarthelemy ( 160321 ) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @01:15AM (#30842538)

    I don't think that's the point... they're doing it 'coz they can.

    I'm holding out for dinosaurs myself... or the dodo bird. An oversize gazelle doesn't sound like much fun.

  • by mjwx ( 966435 ) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @01:37AM (#30842682)

    It's the reason I'll never go back to Milliways.

    Shouldn't you really be going forward to Milliways?

  • by omfgnosis ( 963606 ) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @01:56AM (#30842810)

    Jurassic Park needn't be taken literally for it to be a good parable about why we should be concerned that toying with life and death can have unforeseen consequences.

  • by ChromeAeonium ( 1026952 ) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @02:19AM (#30842918)

    Toying with life? Do you mean like what we do with vaccines that stop disease, medicines that cure, or plant breeding that feeds the world? Even brewing beer and baking bread could be considered 'toying with life.' No one's saying to be reckless, but you've got to admit toying with life has brought a hell of a lot more benefit than harm.

    Jurassic Park was a good movie, but a parable? My arse! Why is it that so many movies have some mad scientists killing people with their crazed experiments, but you never see the movie about people starving to death or succumbing to preventable/curable diseases because the scientists didn't do the research?

    What if people like Norman Borlaug or Edward Jenner didn't 'toy with nature?' It wouldn't be a very pretty sight, would it? I for one like it when we toy with life.

  • Re:Is 99% enough? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MightyMartian ( 840721 ) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @02:36AM (#30843002) Journal

    It's a fucking cow, for chrissakes, and a big one. We're not talking weirdo Eurasian frogs in or some strange aquatic algae. At worst it might be competition for any other Eurasian wild bovines (not that there are a lot of those left anywhere). But this beasty has only been extinct about 400 or 500 years, and is close enough to megafauna that I doubt anything has really filled its shoes, except for all the domestic animals we've put there.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 21, 2010 @03:37AM (#30843264)

    Honestly I blame Jurassic Park and Michael Chrichton for spreading false and completely useless tales about science gone wrong. He's the reason its hard to work on cloning things and any number of other supposedly taboo subjects of which the general populace's only knowledge comes from patently false pulp mulched out by him and others like him.

  • Re:Is 99% enough? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by JasterBobaMereel ( 1102861 ) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @04:51AM (#30843606)

    The Aurochs is extinct there is no DNA to compare to, what you will get is yet another variant of Heck Cattle, i.e. another breed of cattle

    You cannot "breed back" to an extinct species, what you will get at best is an animal similar in most respects to the original, but since the original died out so long ago there is very little information left about it ....

    Guesswork plus a discredited theory does not equal resurrection of an extinct species

  • by ElusiveJoe ( 1716808 ) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @05:07AM (#30843668)

    Where would it live? Between a highway and a power line maybe? There is no living space in modern Europe for wild animals. I doubt it can live in a stall either.

  • by zwei2stein ( 782480 ) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @08:50AM (#30844686) Homepage

    ... but you never see the movie about people starving to death or succumbing to preventable/curable diseases because the scientists didn't do the research? ...

    There are.

    But usually, people who die to preventable diseases are displayed as heroes for sticking with their belief system. Martyrdom meme is strong.

  • by tverbeek ( 457094 ) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @09:32AM (#30844962) Homepage

    It's ironic that some of the people who rant the loudest against humans "playing God" by choosing to discontinue life-support or terminating a pregnancy have no problems with putting someone on life-support to begin with (defying what would seem a rather obvious decision by "God" that the person is ready to die) or engaging in the most "God-like" act of all: willfully creating a new life. It's not so much that they object to people playing God, rather they object to people making God-like decisions that disagree with their own.

  • by hey! ( 33014 ) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @09:33AM (#30844970) Homepage Journal

    Details matter.

    You actually *can* learn something useful in a way from considering the Jurassic Park story. Consider this: the T. rex was awesome, *cool* even. The raptors were terrifying. The little venom spitting dinosaur was the worst.

    If you think about it, that's actually a fairly reasonable reaction. Which of the animals would be a potential problem for people if they were reconstructed? The T. rex is huge, easy to spot, and probably needs an enormous geographic range to itself to survive. If a breeding pair escaped, they'd have almost no chance of establishing a stable population, even if people left them alone.

    The raptors on the other hand might have a chance. The range for a single T. rex probably would support a good sized band of them. But they probably wouldn't be hard to hunt down. They're still pretty big and would be easy to track down. As formidable as they are, they wouldn't be a match for a squad of human commandos.

    It's that little spitting dinosaur that you'd have to look out for. If a breeding pair escaped, they'd be all over the place and you'd never be able to eradicate them.

    The smaller an individual organism is and the less resources it requires to maintain itself in breeding condition, the harder it is to eradicate. Insects the the fire ant, the japanese beetle, or the asian tiger mosquito pretty much can't be stopped once they start breeding in a hospitable environment. Microorganisms are the very hardest. Unless they have a very narrow habitat (e.g. pathogens that infect humans only), you can't even begin to contain their geographic spread; even then it's hard.

    In any case, if you read the book, the real screwups werent't he scientists. They were the systems engineers who relied too much on the resumptions in the requirements spec.

  • Problem? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by TerribleThing ( 1058556 ) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @09:45AM (#30845056)
    "researchers in Poland are working on the same problem."

  • Re:Asterix (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 21, 2010 @06:20PM (#30852788)

    Exactly my idea! I'm always picking sides for the bull, hoping those bloodthirsty toreadors get to run for their life

    I also enjoy seeing bull riders get a good trampling, pen smashing, or wall bashing.

    I'm not a proponent of bull riding, but you have to understand that there is a huge difference in the treatment of the bulls between the two "sports". In bull fighting, the bull is systematically maimed, bleed, and after being exhausted to the point where it can barely move, ultimately killed. In bull riding, the worst the bull is subjected to is waiting in a little pen for 15 minutes or so, sometimes actively irritated, and then forced to carry some fool with more machismo than brains for several seconds (unless of course if it can throw or knock the fool off before then). Therefore, while I don't mind if bull riders feel some pain in pursuit of their "sport", I don't actively wish them the kind of serious injury that being trampled by an angry, but otherwise healthy, bull can cause.

In seeking the unattainable, simplicity only gets in the way. -- Epigrams in Programming, ACM SIGPLAN Sept. 1982