National Geographic

De-Extinction: My story for National Geographic, an all-day exploration, and your questions

Advances in cloning, stem cell manipulations, and sequencing DNA raise a profound possibility: we might be able to bring some species back from extinction. That’s the subject of my cover story for the April issue of National Geographic, which comes out today, and which you can read here.

This morning I spoke on Morning Edition on National Public Radio. The interview will be archived here.

Later today, I will be giving an introductory talk to an all-day exploration of “De-Exinction” at a TEDx meeting at the National Geographic Society. The talks will come from a remarkable line-up of cloning experts, conservation biologists, bioethicists, artists, and others. You can watch the live stream here, and in a few weeks all the videos will be posted online.

This is a fascinatingly complex subject–there are all sorts of questions about how de-extinction would work and about whether it’s a good idea or not. I’d like to invite everyone to post any questions they have from the article or meeting in the comment thread for this post. When I get back home, I will answer as many questions as I can and publish them in a post on Monday

 

There are 7 Comments. Add Yours.

  1. Rajan Chaudhari
    March 15, 2013

    Would De-extinction will be carried out for human race like Neanderthals? What will be legal challenges?

  2. Zack Umbarger
    March 15, 2013

    I’ve seen a couple of the lists and have been pretty excited, can’t wait until I’m old enough to help out. My first question is if there is a special degree to assist with the De-Extinction? Second question is if there are any other species that could possibly be revived besides the ones on the list. And my final question, is if it is possible to exteract DNA from the youngest Megalodon tooth (11,000 years old I think it was) since they extracted DNA from fossilized egg shells from the Elephant Bird, Moa, and Emu. I personally think it would be neat to bring back some of the predators, as well as the herbivores that have dissapeared to help keep them in check. I wish you guys the best of luck!

  3. Zack Umbarger
    March 15, 2013

    One more question I forgot to mention, would I need a special degree besides Zoology and/or Marine Biology to be able to work with these extinct animals when/if they are brought back?

  4. Peteykins
    March 15, 2013

    Too bad the dodo died out too long ago for viable DNA to survive. Now THAT I’d love to see.

  5. Mary
    March 16, 2013

    What are the safe guards on the animals that will be brought back? it’s a wonderful and cool Idea. would they be able to live in the wilds, the natural habitats that they once lived in are gone, and occpied by man now. how can we be sure that both the reborn animals and the humans can live together.. or are they just going to be zoo residences?

  6. Aaron
    March 18, 2013

    Although some of these de-extinct animals could be released back into the wild, anything large, herbivore or predator, would face massive public resistance. Should we bring any animal back from extinction which could threaten human life? and if we did, would they ultimately end up being exploited for profiteering?

    Could this be seen as a ego stroking exerise for scientists as well, with little regard for the ecology of our planet, or the animals that would be brought back?

  7. Chris M.
    March 18, 2013

    @Peteykins: They only went extinct sometime in the 1600s, so they would definitely be a candidate by age, but there just isn’t a good surrogate that the genetic code could be switched into. There aren’t any near relatives that their genetics could be put into the egg of, since they got so much vastly larger than their probable nearest relative, the Nicobar Pigeon. That’s what makes mammoths, for example, a relatively good option, since elephants are similar in size and relatively closely related. The practical problems are a big issue for some things.

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