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The Mammoth Cometh: Revive & Restore Tackles De-Extinction 168

theodp writes "Slashdot's been following de-extinction efforts for a good 15 years. Now, in The Mammoth Cometh, this week's NY Times Magazine cover story, Nathaniel Rich writes that 'bringing extinct animals back to life is really happening — and it's going to be very, very cool. Unless it ends up being very, very bad.' Among the 'genetic rescues' being pursued by The Long Now Foundation's Revive & Restore project is The Great Passenger Pigeon Comeback. And returning a flock of passenger pigeons to the planet is just the tip of the iceberg. 'We're bringing back the mammoth to restore the steppe in the Arctic,' says Stewart Brand. 'One or two mammoths is not a success. 100,000 mammoths is a success.' De-extinction, while no doubt thrilling ('It would certainly be cool to see a living saber-toothed cat,' Stanford's Hank Greely and Jacob Sherkow argued in Science), is disturbing to many conservation biologists who question the logic of bringing back an animal whose native habitat has disappeared, worry about disease, and are concerned that money may be diverted from other conservation efforts."
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The Mammoth Cometh: Revive & Restore Tackles De-Extinction

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  • It's too bad you think she's annoying, because in the meantime she grew up, and is really beautiful and seemingly really smart and interesting [].

  • Second, all of a species isn't exactly captured in just the DNA. DNA only gets expressed properly in the right cellular environment, it's a 'chicken and egg' problem.

    I asked this question myself and the answer I got was that the first generation wouldn't be genetically pure, but through selective breeding of the first generation down a couple of more generations you will have a pure genetic animal. Similar to how they destroy mice that have been cultured with partial human DNA (growing a human ear on their back, for science!), it is possible if you let them breed you will get something human.
  • by Intrepid imaginaut ( 1970940 ) on Sunday March 02, 2014 @05:13PM (#46383575)

    All the more reason to perfect this technique. If we can routinely take samples from species for future revival we can ensure their survival forever.

    And please nobody say this will become an excuse for not caring about species going extinct, would you rather they go extinct anyway and vanish forever? Think about it, no one actually interested in conservation is going to argue against means to preserve species like this.

  • by infinitelink ( 963279 ) on Sunday March 02, 2014 @07:50PM (#46384345) Homepage Journal
    The nice thing about mammoths is they are found all the time, in pristine condition, so well-preserved in ice that they're still edible (for a lot of money per steak)...some of the endeavors with them include research on the viability of eggs and sperm from them, though the likelihood is that a modified elephant egg (using parts from a mammoth's if possible--radically simplifying 'a bit') is to be the recipient of factors for fertilization...and then another and another and another for a long time.

    If folks have been smart, they've been capturing good samples of DNA for mammoths for quite a while now. No word on whether that's what's been happening, though.
  • by ChromaticDragon ( 1034458 ) on Sunday March 02, 2014 @10:58PM (#46385231)

    I imagine that the best way to respond to this is to say this is a NECESSARY condition, but probably not a SUFFICIENT one.

    Since others are chatting about Jurassic Park, the author dealt with some aspects of this in the second book as it pertained to whatever may be lost culturally. Granted, depending on the nature of the best in question, whatever constitutes "culture" amongst a population of the critters may vary from critically important to negligible. In any case, ANYTHING baby mammoths were supposed to learn from other mammoths is clearly GONE.

    Then, in recent years we've just begun to understand how very important microbes are for various species. This ranges from the vast effects of gut flora in humans to creepies and crawlies all over our bodies. Again, we have no idea what this was, should have been, or should be.

    IF we can get "good" DNA here, then the statement of "hairy elephants" is probably extreme. Nonetheless, it's not clear exactly how much we could ever consider these to be "true" mammoths. Having said that, I'm glad they're trying. Even if they fail utterly with mammoths, what they learn should almost certainly apply to species management and preservation given our current extinctions.

A bug in the hand is better than one as yet undetected.