×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

Scientists To Breed the Auroch From Extinction

samzenpus posted more than 4 years ago | from the back-by-popular-demand dept.

Biotech 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."

cancel ×
This is a preview of your comment

No Comment Title Entered

Anonymous Coward 1 minute ago

No Comment Entered

277 comments

Yum (5, Interesting)

ari_j (90255) | more than 4 years ago | (#30842118)

It sounds delicious.

Re:Yum (1)

millennial (830897) | more than 4 years ago | (#30842140)

JINX.

Re:Yum (1)

ari_j (90255) | more than 4 years ago | (#30842378)

Sorry about the redundant mod. I hate getting those when I couldn't have known that I was second in line.

Re:Yum (4, Interesting)

Some Guy (21271) | more than 4 years ago | (#30842148)

Wonder what it tastes like?

[*Gets in line first*]

Asterix (1)

_merlin (160982) | more than 4 years ago | (#30842212)

Doesn't some fat Roman governor serve aurochs at an orgy in Asterix in Helvetia?

Re:Asterix (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30842406)

Yes, and the romans had one in the circus arena in Hispania

Re:Asterix (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30842462)

Actually, if you keep the picadors out of it, I think an auroch might have a chance at survival in a corrida.It wouldn't surprise me if that's one of the first uses they get put to.

Re:Asterix (4, Funny)

Fred_A (10934) | more than 4 years ago | (#30843470)

+1
Just to see the face on the toreador on seeing an elephant sized wild bull with 2m horns charging down on him.
I'd pay to see that.

Re:Yum (1)

camperslo (704715) | more than 4 years ago | (#30842434)

If they're considering the possibility of the Auroch being used for food (I guess it was before if it was hunted so much), it's fair to ask what advantages it might have over modern cattle.
Specifically I'm wondering about the carbon footprint per pound of meat, milk etc.

Can industry be trusted to act responsibly? I was shocked to learn how far a large cattle operation in California went to alter what was being taught (or wasn't) at a University well know for Agriculture.

http://www.sanluisobispo.com/news/local/story/983620.html [sanluisobispo.com]

Re:Yum (2, Insightful)

obarthelemy (160321) | more than 4 years ago | (#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.

Size (4, Informative)

AliasMarlowe (1042386) | more than 4 years ago | (#30843092)

TFS says "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."

Some modern horses weigh over a ton (shire horse is up to 1½ ton, brabant horse average over 1 ton, clydesdale horses typically about 1 ton), bulls in some breeds of cattle can be up to 1½ tons, and the American Bison occasionally exceeds a ton also. These animals would hardly be described as just a little less than an elephant in size, so we're looking at a certain amount of exaggeration or hoopla in TFS and TFA.

BTW, the record weight for a bull is 1740 kg, so the Auroch hardly merits being referred to as a "giant"

Re:Yum (0, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30842890)

It's a sad day for slashdot when an obvious troll is marked neither funny, troll, or flamebait, and only insightful and informative.

What could possibly go wrong... (0)

sgauss (639539) | more than 4 years ago | (#30842154)

Jurassic Park edition!

Re:What could possibly go wrong... (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30842168)

Kill yourself, you unoriginal piece of garbage.

You're probably the sort of wanker to endlessly parrot "Star Wars" lines in public.

Re:What could possibly go wrong... (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30842180)

Certainly preferable to your sputum, you joyless prick.

Re:What could possibly go wrong... (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30842256)

Your mother takes great joy in my prick, sonny.

Re:What could possibly go wrong... (4, Insightful)

ChromeAeonium (1026952) | more than 4 years ago | (#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 [wikipedia.org] in trained squads.

Re:What could possibly go wrong... (5, Funny)

hoggoth (414195) | more than 4 years ago | (#30842390)

Clever girl, Bessie...

Re:What could possibly go wrong... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30842958)

"Ooh. Ah. That's how it's starts. Then comes the running and the screaming."

Re:What could possibly go wrong... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30843026)

Olé!

Re:What could possibly go wrong... (2, Insightful)

omfgnosis (963606) | more than 4 years ago | (#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.

Re:What could possibly go wrong... (5, Insightful)

ChromeAeonium (1026952) | more than 4 years ago | (#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:What could possibly go wrong... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#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:What could possibly go wrong... (3, Funny)

IrquiM (471313) | more than 4 years ago | (#30843600)

That depends on in which animal they find the missing 1% DNA

99%? (3, Insightful)

telomerewhythere (1493937) | more than 4 years ago | (#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 [doobybrain.com]

Re:99%? (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 4 years ago | (#30842238)

Maybe it a bit like a linux system running gimp and a linux system running mplayer are 99% identical if you count the kernel, libc, etc.

Is 99% enough? (2, Informative)

ustolemyname (1301665) | more than 4 years ago | (#30842194)

See, given that our genetic similarity so many known animals is at least 95%, would 99% of the dna really be enough to recreate the animal? It appears as though small differences (1% of a very large number of genes is a large number of genes) are sufficient to make a new species, or, most likely, a non-functioning animal.

Would love to be proved wrong.

Re:Is 99% enough? (4, Informative)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 4 years ago | (#30842218)

Considering that the aurochs is the ancestor of all domestic cattle, it just *might* be possible to come up with viable substitutes for the missing 1%.

Re:Is 99% enough? (1)

omfgnosis (963606) | more than 4 years ago | (#30842828)

It's not inconceivable that the differences between the missing 1% and that 1% taken from domestic cattle would lead a species which would otherwise integrate with its habitat to become invasive or destructive. It's also not inconceivable that it would weaken the species and lead to its eventual re-extinction. It's also not inconceivable that there's all sorts of other possibilities no one will consider before doing it.

Re:Is 99% enough? (4, Insightful)

MightyMartian (840721) | more than 4 years ago | (#30843002)

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.

Re:Is 99% enough? (4, Insightful)

Daniel Dvorkin (106857) | more than 4 years ago | (#30842252)

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.

Is 99% enough?-Meet eater. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30842816)

See, given that our genetic similarity so many known animals is at least 95%, would 99% of the dna really be enough to recreate the animal? It appears as though small differences (1% of a very large number of genes is a large number of genes) are sufficient to make a new species, or, most likely, a non-functioning animal.

Would love to be proved wrong.

I suspect that one percent is what kept the normally docile Auroch from eating congregations of businessmen.

Re:Is 99% enough? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30843570)

Wasn't there an article a while ago about 8% of human DNA being from viruses? While it isn't that simple (some DNA is new, other just has been modified...), 99% similar DNA could bring them closer to aurochs than we are to humans who lived a few thousand years ago.

Re:Is 99% enough? (1, Insightful)

JasterBobaMereel (1102861) | more than 4 years ago | (#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

Spelling (2, Informative)

Fjodor42 (181415) | more than 4 years ago | (#30842200)

Aurochs, the "ochs"-part meaning "ox" and the "aur" being a nomer for something like "original" or "ancestral"...

What about the dodo? (1)

um_atrain (810963) | more than 4 years ago | (#30842204)

Their small, portable, cute, and probably taste like chicken!

Re:What about the dodo? (1)

gd2shoe (747932) | more than 4 years ago | (#30842286)

Not quite...

The dodo (Raphus cucullatus) was a flightless bird endemic to the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius. Related to pigeons and doves, it stood about a meter (3 feet) tall, weighing about 20 kilograms (44 lb), living on fruit and nesting on the ground.

...

The first known descriptions of the bird were made by the Dutch. They called the Mauritius bird the walghvogel ("wallow bird" or "loathsome bird") in reference to its taste. Although many later writings say that the meat tasted bad, the early journals only say that the meat was tough but good, though not as good as the abundantly available pigeons.

It would be interesting to see, but I don't think any good would come out of it. Doubly so in New York...

Re:What about the dodo? (1)

gd2shoe (747932) | more than 4 years ago | (#30842304)

Sorry. That was a Wikipedia quote. (Source of all things that can't quite be trusted, but very handy regardless...)

Well, a lot of people drive Volkswagens (0)

smchris (464899) | more than 4 years ago | (#30842220)

Isn't this the critter the Nazis were trying to recreate as a symbol of virile bovine macho?

Since it is recently extinct with a surviving linage, I suppose it _is_ a scientifically likely candidate for this sort of thing even if it has the taint of political incorrectness.

Re:Well, a lot of people drive Volkswagens (1)

Shadow of Eternity (795165) | more than 4 years ago | (#30843042)

Personally, as a jew, I would relish the opportunity to see the Nazi cow finally bred into a full and fertile existence... and promptly labelled Kosher.

Schadenfreude is a wonderful seasoning for an Auroch burger.

Great idea! (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30842230)

Now we just use the DNA from a frog to fill in the gaps and........

Scientist comments on story (4, Insightful)

cgenman (325138) | more than 4 years ago | (#30842270)

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?

Re:Scientist comments on story (5, Funny)

ari_j (90255) | more than 4 years ago | (#30842388)

I usually read "scientists" as "astrologers" to ensure that I don't fall victim to any kind of argument to authority. :P

Re:Scientist comments on story (1)

lawpoop (604919) | more than 4 years ago | (#30842442)

A bit offtopic, I know, but can we please stop referring to everyone and everything as scientists?

Are you saying that anyone who does experimentation with DNA is thereby a scientist? I would disagree.

I don't think anybody *is* referring to everyone and everything as scientists. I think they only do it when the people doing whatever are actually connected to a university, or receive government funding for research. What it means is that the people who are doing this have some social legitimacy in so doing; it's not just a guy in his back yard doing DNA splicing.

Re:Scientist comments on story (2, Interesting)

Fred_A (10934) | more than 4 years ago | (#30843662)

Are you saying that anyone who does experimentation with DNA is thereby a scientist?

I thought the common term for those people was "parents". And apparently it doesn't seem to require a degree (although from what I see around me, maybe it should).

Re:Scientist comments on story (1)

The Wild Norseman (1404891) | more than 4 years ago | (#30842468)

Saying that Scientists are going to do it is an overused catch-all phrase that doesn't actually add any information.

"All those scientists, they're all alike! They say they're working for us. What they really want is to rule the world!"

Re:Scientist comments on story (1)

Floritard (1058660) | more than 4 years ago | (#30842534)

But none of those terms so readily prepare my brain to imagine a team of white-coated madmen performing reckless experiments on the fringes of modern technological capability. When I hear "scientists" I get excited like that.

Re:Scientist comments on story (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30842564)

New Zealanders.

Re:Scientist comments on story (1)

forkazoo (138186) | more than 4 years ago | (#30842778)

What, could it have been that Creationists were going to breed the auroch from extinction? Linguists? Liberal arts majors?

That's absurd. Creationists, Linguists, and Liberal Arts Majors don't try to breed cows! They try to breed with them.

Re:Scientist comments on story (2, Interesting)

shutdown -p now (807394) | more than 4 years ago | (#30843062)

What, could it have been that Creationists were going to breed the auroch from extinction?

Well, no, Creationists pray for it, and get one delivered to them from heavens right there and then.

In any case, I think that "scientists do $something_awesome" is a traditional, respected, and still wonderful meme of its own. It reinforces the notion that so many cool things that we have, we owe to science; which just happens to be something well worthy reminding about these days.

1% is a huge difference in terms of DNA (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30842272)

99% may not sound like a huge amount missing, but in terms of DNA with about 3.08x10^9 nucleotides, the missing 1% is a massive shortfall. Sure, they can take an educated guess at the rest, but then it will never be a real auroch.

What if they do succeed? What happens then? Do they try to reestablish the species, or will this just be a showpeice? I like cool science, but this seems to be a case of them doing it for no other reason than just because they can.

Re:1% is a huge difference in terms of DNA (1)

SEWilco (27983) | more than 4 years ago | (#30842752)

They have sequence much of the animal's DNA. Maybe by the time they breeders are getting close the DNA technology will be able to better analyze the old samples.

Re:1% is a huge difference in terms of DNA (1)

treeves (963993) | more than 4 years ago | (#30843210)

Yeah,
don't we often hear how humans and chimpanzees share something like >95% of their DNA?
And where is the jurassicpark tag?

Just because you can ... (0, Troll)

wisnoskij (1206448) | more than 4 years ago | (#30842312)

... 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.

Re:Just because you can ... (1)

tsa (15680) | more than 4 years ago | (#30842372)

Chances of that are slim considering that the creature in question will be held domestically, and has died out only 383 years ago.

Re:Just because you can ... (3, Insightful)

Tigersmind (1549183) | more than 4 years ago | (#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:Just because you can ... (1)

wisnoskij (1206448) | more than 4 years ago | (#30842638)

Actions have consequences, be the actions scientifically based or anything else.
Only a child thinks he/she should do anything he wants and nothing bad can happen.

Re:Just because you can ... (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30843080)

Turning that around, only a neurotic under-achiever thinks that everything is dangerous and the remotest possibility for disaster is an excuse not to do something. I agree with you that one extreme is no good, but the other is just as dangerous. GP had a good point - hypothesising about the dangers without having an idea about the specifics of the implementation (specifically the proposed safety measures) is as useless and frustrating for the people trying to get things done as the oft-confronted "MSCE Certified Luser Who Is An 'Expert' (But Doesn't Know What Right Click Is)". Why not let the experts explain how they're going to contain or negate the danger, before jumping up and down about how they're going to kill us all?

via bbc iplayer get it while you can (4, Informative)

auric_dude (610172) | more than 4 years ago | (#30842334)

A 30min radio offering via bbc iplayer http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b00hc946/b00hc6xc/Jon_Ronson_and_the_Quest_for_the_Aryan_Cow/ [bbc.co.uk] (runs until 9:32pm Thursday 21st January 2010 ) covers the trip to Munich Zoo by John Ronson. "Jon Ronson investigates the controversial story of the work of Lutz Heck, the director of Berlin Zoo who attempted to resurrect several pure-blooded, extinct animal species as part of the Nazi programme to control the genetic destiny of all creation. He visits Munich Zoo, which proudly advertises its 'formerly extinct aurochs' - a type of large and powerful cow - but does not refer to the fact that behind this apparent triumph lies the story of Heck's collusion with Goering's aspiration to replace Europe's 'racially degenerate' wildlife and plant life with pure, 'noble' and extinct species."

Just as long as ... (1)

unhooked (21010) | more than 4 years ago | (#30842356)

the damn thing doesn't start talking to me, I hate that shit.
It's the reason I'll never go back to Milliways.

Re:Just as long as ... (2, Insightful)

mjwx (966435) | more than 4 years ago | (#30842682)

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

Shouldn't you really be going forward to Milliways?

Already Been Done, Seventy Years Ago (4, Insightful)

Dunx (23729) | more than 4 years ago | (#30842382)

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.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heck_cattle [wikipedia.org]

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?

Re:Already Been Done, Seventy Years Ago (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30842808)

That's one heck of a cow!

Sorry, I'll be going now...

Re:Already Been Done, Seventy Years Ago (4, Interesting)

Daniel Dvorkin (106857) | more than 4 years ago | (#30842820)

The main difference, I think -- besides the fact that the Nazis were motivated by loony ideology and the modern researchers, presumably, are motivated by scientific curiosity -- is that the Hecks could only breed for phenotype, while the groups currently working on the problem are breeding for genotype. A project like this is really impossible without modern DNA sequencing technology.

That being said, it would be interesting to know how close the Hecks got. The Wiki article doesn't mention if there's been any comparison of the Heck genome to the reconstructed aurochs genome; I'd like to know the results of such a study.

It's also amusing to speculate what would have happened if sequencing had been available back then. Der Fuehrer's apoplexy upon learning that an awful lot of the Jews and Slavs he was bent on exterminating were genetically indistinguishable from the general German population would have been a site to behold.

Re:Already Been Done, Seventy Years Ago (1)

piotru (124109) | more than 4 years ago | (#30843416)

That very Lutz Heck who in 1939 arrived at freshly captured Warsaw to plunder the zoological garden.
The programme of his visit included more looting in Bialowieza forest. He had stolen the specimens of Przewalski horse, Tarpan and Zubr - the last species being a point of sour professional jealousy...
After the robbery, Gestapo officers organized hunting binges in what remained of the ZOO in Warsaw, but that's off topic here.

...and only 1% frog DNA. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30842392)

What could *possibly* go wrong?

Start smaller? (0)

AlexWillisson (1348553) | more than 4 years ago | (#30842398)

It seems like it'd be a better idea to start with something that hasn't been extinct for that long, for practice. I hope they work it out, it'd be cool to see something extinct brought back through science.

Aurochs (1)

coppro (1143801) | more than 4 years ago | (#30843070)

It's called an aurochs [wizards.com] . Research fail.

Re:Aurochs (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30843152)

The Wikipedia article linked to in the damned summary even makes this clear.

(But, presumably like the parent, I noticed the mistake because of Magic: The Gathering. :P)

Bonus aurochs trivia: the modern word ox comes from its second syllable. So thank the noble aurochs for its indirect contribution of the geeky words boxen, VAXen, and Emacsen.

Jurassic Park? (1)

diefuchsjagden (835254) | more than 4 years ago | (#30843356)

so long as Frog DNA is not being used to fill that missing 1% creating both male and female Ancient Giant cows raging through the streets of L.A. killing every one cool by me... What should be down is to cultivate several males and use them in the running of the Bulls in Madrid, SP

99%? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30843592)

well, it worked perfectly in jurassic park!

It's all great, but... (2, Insightful)

ElusiveJoe (1716808) | more than 4 years ago | (#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.

A small, but friendly note about spelling (2, Informative)

jandersen (462034) | more than 4 years ago | (#30843674)

It is called aurochs, not "auroch", as one would realize by clicking the Wikipedia link provided. It is a German word and means "Ancient Ox".

Load More Comments
Slashdot Account

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?

Don't worry, we never post anything without your permission.

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>
Sign up for Slashdot Newsletters
Create a Slashdot Account

Loading...