Beta
×

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!

Using Stem Cells to Save Endangered Species

samzenpus posted about 3 years ago | from the stick-around-for-a-while dept.

Biotech 73

RogerRoast writes "Starting with normal skin cells, scientists from The Scripps Research Institute have produced the first stem cells from endangered species. Such cells could eventually make it possible to improve reproduction and genetic diversity for some species, possibly saving them from extinction, or to bolster the health of endangered animals in captivity. The study was published in the recent issue of Nature Methods."

cancel ×

73 comments

Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

good idea and (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37306442)

wouldn't it be easier to stop the killing of the ones in the wild first?

Re:good idea and (2)

Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) | about 3 years ago | (#37306466)

Actually no, it's easier to make stem cells. That's why they take the trouble...

Re:good idea and (4, Informative)

Fluffeh (1273756) | about 3 years ago | (#37306528)

Actually no, it's easier to make stem cells. That's why they take the trouble...

The catch here is this: It is easier to SAY to stop killing them, but it's certainly not as easy to get them to stop being killed.

There is a vast number of reasons:

    * The animals could be being poached - African Elephants, Rhinos, Lions etc?
    * There may be an introduced predator doing the killing - Cane Toads in Australia for example.
    * There could be some disease running rampant through the natural animal population - Tasmanian Devils in Australia are being wiped out by a cancerous growth on their snouts.

For the folks doing this research and development, it is not only easier for them to make stem cells, but it is the thing that they can do personally. A scientist working in a lab may not be able to suddenly pick up a gun and go protecting wildlife in another country - but he might be able to help save some through his medical research.

Re:good idea and (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37306606)

* There could be some disease running rampant through the natural animal population - Tasmanian Devils in Australia are being wiped out by a cancerous growth on their snouts.

Correct [wikipedia.org] .

Re:good idea and (1)

Antarius (542615) | about 3 years ago | (#37306700)

And there's some species (eg. Panda) that appear to not like sex that much.

And others like the Cheetah that have been interbreeding too long, so that there's not enough genetic diversification.

Re:good to eat (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37306720)

There is somewhere around 24 billion chickens, 1.4 billion cattle, 1 billion pigs, etc

If it's a staple food source it's unlikely to go extinct. I know I'm made of mostly chicken glued together with green sludge.

Bald Eagle burgers, not just tasty but they're American made and don't threaten the fuzzy snakes in the rain forest.

Or modify humans to be able to get nutrition from sunlight and rocks.

Re:good to eat (1)

unixisc (2429386) | about 3 years ago | (#37306998)

This is the best idea to save any animal from going extinct - eat them! If they are eaten, one has to farm them, if one has to farm them, their supply will be continuous. But make a list of the animals we want, and the ones we don't, and pick accordingly. I don't want to eat snakes; lions, otoh, I wouldn't mind. OTOH, most insects, like mosquitoes, flies, wasps, et al don't face extinction @ all, and it's not like the food-chain would be inadequate w/o them.

Re:good idea and (3, Interesting)

hairyfeet (841228) | about 3 years ago | (#37307060)

You forgot the fourth and probably biggest reason, which is starving humans eating them to survive just look up "bushmeat" and see for yourself. the really sad part is part of the reason those people are starving is just like blood diamonds we pay warlords for the minerals to make our cell phones and help to keep the wars there going.

Basically that whole damned area is a mess and unless we in the west just want to roll the tanks and try another hand at nation building (which never seems to work out) I doubt it'll be getting better there any time soon. Most likely the only examples of animals from the congo area and other third world hellholes 50 years from now will be in zoos if we are lucky, museums if we are not.

Re:good idea and (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37313400)

Basically that whole damned area is a mess and unless we in the west just want to roll the tanks and try another hand at nation building (which never seems to work out anymore since the Marshall plan) I doubt it'll be getting better there any time soon.

Here, corrected that for you.

Re:good idea and (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37307998)

i agree. nicely said and well written.

Re:good idea and (3)

ChromeAeonium (1026952) | about 3 years ago | (#37306484)

In a perfect world, yes, but try explaining that to poachers, or to people demanding more land for living, farming, ect.

Death With Dignity (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37306474)

Can't we just let them poor little doomed critters die in peace?

Re:Death With Dignity (1)

errandum (2014454) | about 3 years ago | (#37306650)

This might sound cruel, and I'm sure I'll be modded down too, but animals have been going extinct since the beginning of time... Isn't it the circle of life? Aren't species supposed to die off eventually?

Should we be interfering with the laws of nature?

Re:Death With Dignity (4, Insightful)

Daniel Dvorkin (106857) | about 3 years ago | (#37306670)

Isn't it the circle of life? Aren't species supposed to die off eventually?

Should we be interfering with the laws of nature?

There is no "supposed to" involved (unless you believe it's a divine plan, in which case He, or She, or It, or They should let us know in unequivocal terms.) Species don't die off for the hell of it, they die off when their environment changes too much for them to survive and/or reproduce; and every species on Earth "interferes with the laws of nature" from every other species' perspective, simply by existing. Humans are, as far as we know, the only species capable of seeing the consequence of this interference and deciding to do something about it. If we choose not to do something about it -- guess what, we're interfering no less.

Re:Death With Dignity (3, Insightful)

Samantha Wright (1324923) | about 3 years ago | (#37306676)

The answer is simple, but really worth saying, so I'll blow two moderations to make it (sorry, ChromeAeonium and Fluffeh.)

To quote Julian Huxley:

It is as if man had been suddenly appointed managing director of the biggest business of all, the business of evolution — appointed without being asked if he wanted it, and without proper warning and preparation. What is more, he can't refuse the job. Whether he wants to or not, whether he is conscious of what he is doing or not, he is in point of fact determining the future direction of evolution on this earth. That is his inescapable destiny, and the sooner he realizes it and starts believing in it, the better for all concerned.

Not since the beginnings of life on this planet has one species had the ability to affect so many others, so quickly. Species have started going extinct at a far greater rate since humans started mucking things up than before. What we've been doing to this planet's biodiversity is a lot more than it did to itself before we showed up.

Of course, stories like this one [livescience.com] pop up from time to time, but if the truth is that we really don't know, then it's probably wiser to be careful and protective than presumptuous and selfish.

Re:Death With Dignity (4, Insightful)

silentcoder (1241496) | about 3 years ago | (#37306994)

What a lovely post... too bad you're just plain wrong.

>Not since the beginnings of life on this planet has one species had the ability to affect so many others

This is an utterly unproven assertion, I nearly left it at [Citation needed] but the reality is that if a comet wiped us off the face of the earth tomorrow, chances are in 20 million years there would be NO surviving evidence of our ever having been here. There could have been many other intelligent species who reached our levels and we would not have any way of knowing. It's possible we're unique, but it's by no means certain.

>Species have started going extinct at a far greater rate since humans started mucking things up than before
Not even remotely true - the history of life on this planet is filled with mass extinctions that make our entire existence look like a blimp on a chart. The Cambrian extinction wiped out 96% of the species alive at that time - we still don't know what caused it (we have some theories but nothing confirmed). The K/T event wiped out just about every species on the planet bigger than a rat. Lucky for us... our ancestors then were about the size of shrews, the few surviving large animals were all aquatic (nile crocodile and the great white shark for example). The history of this planet is one of repeated mass-extinctions, over and over just when life reaches an apparent high-point the universe throws a rock at us or the planet freezes over and 95% or more of the life forms around get wiped out in an instant.
The average life expectancy of a species is 10-million years (we're already there in other words) and 97% of the life forms that have ever existed are extinct. 94% of them were extinct before mammals arrived - let alone humans.
The good news is, each time there's a mass extinction it's followed by the greatest booms of biodiversity that we find in history. Right after an extinction there are no predators, no specialists so all sorts of bodyplans and weird evolutionary ideas can survive - soon they start to get weeded out as specialists do better and biodiversity eventually stabilizes around systems that have only a few species in each niche. We're in the middle of such a stable intermediary period.

There is a much more pragmatic reason to do conservation - exactly because extinction is such a guarantee. Mass extinctions would take us with it - and not all mass extinctions happen because a rock fell from the sky. Some are caused by life forms. One of the largest mass extinctions was caused by the evolution of photosynthesis in plants. Suddenly the air was pumped full of a terribly toxic, highly corrosive gas - ultimately making up 21% of the atmosphere - practically every other lifeform on the planet died out. But new lifeforms evolved - which turned this poison into a crucial part of their very biochemistry - for us (as their descendents) oxygen is not a horribly corrosive poison - it's the gas we cannot live without !

The reason to try and keep the natural order we evolved in as stable as possible with as few disruptions as possible, to preserve as many species as we can is simple: life will go on, the planet will survive with or without us... but every disruption we make - every species WE drive extinct, every forrest we chop down is risking OUR OWN survival. We can do only limited actions to protect ourselves from rocks falling out of the sky, but we can try to keep from melting the polar ice-caps ourselves. We can try to keep species alive, to preserve a balance we are evolved to fit into - or we risk taking ourselves out with them.

As Michael Chrighton says in Ian Malcolm's speech near the end of Jurassic Park (the book, not the movie), we don't have to worry about saving the planet- but if we're lucky (and smart), we may be able to save ourselves.

Re:Death With Dignity (1)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | about 3 years ago | (#37307748)

In your first two paragraphs you argue that man has not had a massive effect on this planet's ecosystem compared to any other species, because natural events have caused mass extinction in the past.

No the original argument was correct. Compared to any other species that has ever existed, the influence of humans has been massive. Compared to natural events that no species had any control over, yeah not so much.

Re:Death With Dignity (1)

silentcoder (1241496) | about 3 years ago | (#37308382)

>In your first two paragraphs you argue that man has not had a massive effect on this planet's ecosystem compared to any other species, because natural events have caused mass extinction in the past.

I argued about man's effect on other species over the sum of the lifetime of the planet. I didn't argue that we have no impact, I pointed out how another lifeform caused one of the biggest extinction events in history by changing the structure of the atmosphere - any doubt that a lifeform can do so is settled right there (as one example).

As I indicated some (not all) mass extinctions are caused by terestrial events, some by life-forms. We are at a very real risk of being one of those life-forms that cause a mass extinction event, and unlike the plants we have very little chance of surviving it ourselves if we do.
A global nuclear war would be a mass extinction event, it would also take humanity out right along with it. See my point ?

Re:Death With Dignity (1)

Samantha Wright (1324923) | about 3 years ago | (#37313856)

Homo sapiens has had more impact on biodiversity than any other species. The Great Oxidation Event lasted hundreds of millions of years and, while we have no means of establishing a survey of taxa from that era, it was most likely the result of a very large number of species, and indeed is such a long period of time that many speciation events could readily have occurred. Further, the autotrophs that released the oxygen in the first place had no means of affecting many of the anaerobes that live deep underground—and we do.

Here are your citations for humanity's impact. Suffice it to say that many of them will still be noticeable in a few million years:

I don't know why you then decided to compare humanity's effect on biodiversity to that of mass extinction events, but let me explain to you why they are completely different.

When an extinction event occurs, there is a single source of pressure that living organisms must accommodate, or at most a couple: the sky is darker, the air is colder, the atmosphere is now filled with water rather than ammonia, et cetera. Humans have not been exerting this kind of pressure at all. We systematically destroy ecosystems, replacing hundreds of species of plants and animals with just one or two (which are, naturally, attuned to depend on us feeding, fertilizing, irrigating, and sheltering them) and we poison the water, air and soil with thousands of chemicals and chemical cocktails (an issue which is now so bad it's affecting [scientificamerican.com] us [nih.gov] .)

This is too much for evolution to handle. Especially due to chemical poisoning, many of the hardiest species most likely to survive a natural disaster have been snared by exotic and unexpected genetic vulnerabilities. DDT was found to act as a sex hormone in birds, for example, causing males to develop female genitalia. As a South African, I'm sure you're aware that it's still in use, combating Malaria, even though it has been banned in many countries.

We are whittling down biodiversity in ways that the Great Oxygen Catastrophe didn't. It selected one major branch of the tree, the organisms that depended on a reducing atmosphere, and marginalized them, creating room for the healthy and diverse aerobes to take over, and at a rate of hundreds of millions of years, which was something they could handle. We see something similar every time a species of bacteria becomes resilient to an antibiotic: one pressure that kills the trunk of the population, leaving fringe subpopulations to take over.

Our impact destroys entire ecosystems [wikipedia.org] and exerts substantial stress on organisms, to which they must respond by developing many defence mechanisms to piles of tricky problems, often resulting in sub-optimal solutions, like a certain disease has forced us to [wikipedia.org] . When these bad solutions are stacked on top of one another, you get a entire species of unhealthy plants, animals, or fungi. A species that won't have as much of a chance of surviving your hypothetical comet-strike.

And by the way, we really are horrible for the environment. [pbs.org]

Humans aren't part of the evolutionary rat-race any more. Because we can think for ourselves in a rational, independent and judge the outcomes of our actions, and because we can cooperate on such a massive scale to do things not merely in our instinctual self-interest, we are very much separated from the rest of the world, which is unconscious and, by comparison, helpless. (And, if you want to really pick hairs, in all likelihood the rate of human evolution is slowing as we kill off the pressures that motivate us to change.) If we wanted to end life on this planet, by golly, we most certainly could. It would take a lot of nuclear firepower to disrupt the Earth's crust so completely, but it's by no means impossible. While that would certainly be bad news for us, there's a bigger picture.

Life was here before us. In all likelihood, it will be here after us. It is an intricate symphony of incredible wonders and accomplishments in its own right, greater and more voluminous in number than the entire efforts of the human species. It deserves to exist in its own right, considered separately from our own selfish goals. Our impact affects more than us and the handful of domesticated plants and animals (and fungi, and bacteria...) we depend on. We're shitting in our mother's nest, and unlike us, she doesn't have the option of moving out. That should make you stop and think. Not a Michael Crichton quote. Not George Carlin's blatant sophistry [youtube.com] . There's something bigger than us in the world, and we're abusing it.

Re:Death With Dignity (1)

silentcoder (1241496) | about 3 years ago | (#37313934)

Okay, I am not going to argue with somebody trained in the field. My point was much simpler and actually greatly overlaps with yours - particularly this bit:

"and we poison the water, air and soil with thousands of chemicals and chemical cocktails (an issue which is now so bad it's affecting us"

- Exactly. The impacts we're having will ultimately cause our own (possible) extinction.

Now it's quite true that our many varied impacts are more complex than (most) extinction events - but you COULD see it as one event "evolution of modern man" , I won't argue about whether that's a valid way to look at it- you're better trained for such analysis than me and I defer to your knowledge.
What stands is that we are harming the living organisms on the planet severely - and that harms us. You gave lots of interesting links and data but nothing disproved my core point.

At the same time many top scientists in your own field, including Jack Cohen, agrees with my view (in fact my post directly quoted some of his works a few times - though it was single lines and an idea which is why I didn't credit him in particular, especially since I grossly oversimplified it).
The Boston Foreskin Collector is an expert in this particular field of biology and he strongly believes our combined impacts are smaller than any extinction event by many orders of magnitude.

Ironically - what you're saying is while very true, not very relevent. Worst case scenario - humanity does something so stupid we wipe out every vertebrate on the planet. We take out 95% of the bacteria and all the insects while we're at it, oh and let's take out all the fish as well (which we're pretty close to doing anyway).

Life isn't gone. Virusses still exist (though I am aware that many biologists don't consider them a lifeform there is definite dissent in the field about that - personally I side with those that consider them one and prefer more inclusive definitions of "alive" than 'DNA molecule' - a more successful one than we are actually) , we won't get ALL the bacteria - the extremophiles will survive, a few others too. In fact all the corpses we leave lying around will probably be very fertile breeding ground for the few that survive and they will absolutely prosper.

The simple reality is, if even one single organism survive - even if it's a single celled organism... life will go on, in ten million years teh planet will be crawling with new multicellular creatures. They may take a completely different route, they may never evolve dipoblasts and tripoblasts - or a very similar one.

But humanity cannot wipe out life. Hell even if we COULD somehow wipe out every single lifeform on the planet... I wager life would start again. Now this is a less proven point - I side with the scientists who believe life to be extremely resilient and able to spring up anywhere and everywhere that it's remotely possible - and nothing we do short of actually blowing the planet to smithereens will make it completely impossible for anything to EVER live on again.

Life will go on - but we won't be here, we won't be part of it. We may take out everything in nature that think is "normal" but we won't be the end of life. All our most powerful technology, even all our nuclear bombs at once won't do as much harm as a single comet - and life survived them.
All we do, in all our areas are horrible - and we risk being an extinction event as a species, taking ourselves and every other lifeform we know out. But I am quite convinced new life will come - will find a way.

This is NOT consolation, it's not an argument against conservation - on the contrary, if we value the existence of our species then we must increase our effort to conserve. We must live in greater harmony with other species. We must reduce pollution and eradicate things like DDT (btw. kudo's for noting where I live, and being aware of the issue - I am firmly opposed to DDT for malaria fighting, not least because it's utterly ineffective, all you get is resistent mosquitos that are even worse to deal with - add the other impacts and it's a senseless and stupid way to approach the problem).

I live in Africa, I spend at least 3 weeks a year in the Kruger Park. I am well aware that it's on the verge of a major ecological crisis - and it's already too late to prevent one. Elephant culling was prohibited in the 80's under pressure from greens who took their emotions over science. Elephant populations grew in a world where their usual migrations are no longer possible. Now there are so many, breeding so fast that even if we started culling today - we cannot kill them faster than they breed anymore. With all our technology, it's no longer possible for us to stabilize the Kruger Park's elephant population, let alone bring it back to what the area can bare.
Over the past ten years I've watched it's lush bushveld being turned slowly into a desert, and the process is ongoing and now - unstoppable. In another decade, we'll see the mass wipe-out of every herd of antelop, every lion, every cheetah and all the elephants in the park as the elephants finally eat up all the plants (they are already consuming them much faster than new bushes and grass can grow).

We didn't interfere where we should have - and now we'll see the cruel hunger death of hundreds of thousands of animal - and it's already impossible to prevent (you won't read this in a tourist brochure, but try asking the actual wardens who run the rest camps - they all know it's coming).

One of the largest and greatest animal sanctuaries in the world, and one of the oldest, gone within my lifetime - because we let emotion rather than science guide conservation.

We need scientific rationality to prevent this. The impact of our actions on ourselves are immeasurable (just think what the loss of the park will do to South Africa's economy - how many people unemployed, how many will starve because of the death of those animals ?)
Everything we do changes us as well - sometimes in unexpected ways. We still haven't had time to fully work out what it will do to us to have removed horses from our daily lives, but for starters the thing that replaced them had an unexpected side effect early on. The model-T offered young humans comfortable privacy for the first time in human history - quite a large proportion of the next generation was conceived in it's back seats. Today the descendents of that model-T are perhaps the number one pollution source in the world.

This is my argument in a nutshell - our actions don't just harm nature, they aren't just destructive to something idillic and arguments about human welfare having to be preserved or trumping nature are fallacies - because harm to nature affects us in turn in unexpected (and mostly unpredictable) ways - and the vast majority of those ways are quite terrible for us.

We very well COULD be an extinction event - and if we are, we won't survive our own impact. But don't imagine that humanity will be the end of life, we can be the end of all life as we know it - but not all life. Somehow, life will start again, it always does. There is nothing more tenacious, more bloody-minded, more absolutely hard-assed insistent than life.

Re:Death With Dignity (1)

silentcoder (1241496) | about 3 years ago | (#37313940)

I've re-read your post, and want to add two things. I quoted Chrichton (who - btw was is actually a real scientist - notably a biologist (more notably a medical doctor) and was one for a long time before he started writing) as a more jocular and less serious way to make my point. I never suggested that particular line should be taken as factual.

Secondly -you and I are saying the exact same thing - and arguing about the semantic detail. You are much more accurate and complex in your wording but your conclusion and mine are identical.

Re:Death With Dignity (1)

Samantha Wright (1324923) | about 3 years ago | (#37316740)

I think it comes down to this: your position is that "we're harming the life and destroying something precious, and that's bad for us," and my position is that "yes, we're harming ourselves in the process, but the effects on the planet are more important." Like many biologists, I'll sleep better at night once we can pull ourselves off the planet and leave it to its business, and the thought of the human species going away is not quite as heartbreaking.

Biology and medical research use the same tools these days, but Crichton went to medical school in the sixties, when our knowledge of both genetics and our impact on the environment was extremely limited. I don't disagree with the sentiment of the quote itself, but it's a little like quoting Bill Gates on child-rearing.

Re:Death With Dignity (1)

silentcoder (1241496) | about 3 years ago | (#37317514)

Any quote is an appeal to authority. By itself that's a fallacy. It can only strengthen an already strong argument. It cannot make a bad one better. Despite Crichton 's legendary research efforts. ( the Jurassic park premise was only proven flawed several years later) I wouldn't call him an authority on conservation anyway. I just liked the way he worded an idea I agree with.

Wanting, indeed striving to survive is the prerogative of every life form. That does include us and I believe space exploration is our one chance to really Jp our odds (Cohen would agree). Success is
Not guaranteed bit we ought to try.

That said I don't agree with your less than other creatures idea. I also don't think we're more. In fact I take exception to us being called homo sapience
  Wisdom is our rarest attribute so that's out and there is no genus homo. We (and other extinct homo variants) differ only marginally more from pan troglodytes or pan pinuscus than they do differ from one another. We are the third living chimpanzee. And clearly got our sex drives from the same ancestors as bonobos did!
I'd call us pan curiosita if I'm feeling generous. The chimp that asks questions. But pan destructus would sadly fit even better

not guaranteed but trying is worth it

Re:Death With Dignity (1)

vadim_t (324782) | about 3 years ago | (#37306790)

Interferring with the laws of nature is what we do.

Yes, unfit species die out naturally but we're massively screwing with things to the point that very few species can manage to cope, and that's not a good thing. We need things to remain in balance, otherwise bad things like huge amounts of pests happen.

Besides, animals are a source of a huge amount of research. Who knows if the cure for cancer is going to come from the research of some animal that's about to become extinct?

For instance, the Axolotl is endangered, which is really bad for a species that has such remarkable qualities like regeneration.

Ok ok... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37306480)

Assuming humans are the reason these animals are going extinct, but why do we feel the need to make a mockery of the system in which they live to keep them chugging along?

The world we live in has humans in it.

Will these new (still endangered) critters be better equipped to live in a world with humans?

Will we collectively feel better about killing them off having "saved" their species?

Re:Ok ok... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37306646)

I swear, I've read your post like, five times, it just says... nothing.

What now (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37306502)

A species is endangered, so we decide to give it cancer?

"Conservatives" aren't going to like this... (-1, Flamebait)

ibsteve2u (1184603) | about 3 years ago | (#37306560)

The "conservatives" are going to go off...science, playing with life? Ain't nobody allowed to usurp the powers of their God.

'Cept them, of course, if it is something that they can deploy against scientists and other forms of liberals...e.g., taking an inanimate object like an article of incorporation, breathing "life" into it, and giving it so many rights that it becomes a supercitizen that can overwhelm the voices of millions of the *old-fashioned kind of citizens.

(*You know, the human kind?).

Re:"Conservatives" aren't going to like this... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37306586)

The "conservatives" are going to go off...science, playing with life? Ain't nobody allowed to usurp the powers of their God.

    'Cept them, of course, if it is something that they can deploy against scientists and other forms of liberals...e.g., taking an inanimate object like an article of incorporation, breathing "life" into it, and giving it so many rights that it becomes a supercitizen that can overwhelm the voices of millions of the *old-fashioned kind of citizens.

(*You know, the human kind?).

This is quite possibly the most moronic statement I've ever read.

Re:"Conservatives" aren't going to like this... (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37306610)

The "conservatives" are going to go off...science, playing with life? Ain't nobody allowed to usurp the powers of their God.

    'Cept them, of course, if it is something that they can deploy against scientists and other forms of liberals...e.g., taking an inanimate object like an article of incorporation, breathing "life" into it, and giving it so many rights that it becomes a supercitizen that can overwhelm the voices of millions of the *old-fashioned kind of citizens.

(*You know, the human kind?).

Condescending remarks.... check. Stereotyping.... check. Paranoia.... check. Sarcasm and exaggeration as the basis for an arguement.... check.

Move on, nothing to see here.

unless we are talking GMO corn & soybeans (0)

decora (1710862) | about 3 years ago | (#37308346)

because goddamnit thats the free market!

Re:unless we are talking GMO corn & soybeans (0)

ibsteve2u (1184603) | about 3 years ago | (#37309664)

lollll...good thing I didn't add "Conservatives are into killing species off, not using embryonic-anything to save something!" like I was thinking about. I'd have got modded down from flamebait to nuclear waste.

End the Bailouts (4, Funny)

mentil (1748130) | about 3 years ago | (#37306594)

I'm sick of us jumping in every time a species is about to die out. Too cute to fail? I say let them go extinct. The ones that survive who looked to the future instead of eating all the grass in the field this quarter are doing what's morally right, and will lead to a stronger society.
Before you know it, the lazy lower-class animals will be living in human-provided housing, with food handouts and arranged marriages, and the predation the superior specimens take part in will be outsourced to the hunters!

Re:End the Bailouts (1)

IDarkISwordI (811835) | about 3 years ago | (#37306616)

I get that this is likely satire but the fact that many feel rather similar to this position, really just makes this sad rather than humorous. I'm sure without more intense intervention we will continue into a steady collapse of local ecosystems followed by more wide spread collapse until the human population is no longer sustainable and begins to fade out as well. The planet will likely bounce back into an even more lush and diverse planet than before and so goes it until the Sun will engulf our former globe.

Hey thanks Borlough! That "green revolution" really turned out to be a great long term strategy.

Re:End the Bailouts (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37309564)

Satire? Are you kidding? Maybe that he used the word "bailouts", but his post is spot on. Why interfere with evolution? Just let it run it's course. They couldn't adapt to current conditions, so that's their fault.

Re:End the Bailouts (1)

Gaygirlie (1657131) | about 3 years ago | (#37306872)

The ones that survive who looked to the future instead of eating all the grass in the field this quarter

I'm not entirely certain if you're just trying to be funny, but I'll say this just-in-case (I actually know people who really do think like that): most of the time it's us, the humans, who cause a species to go extinct, not the species itself.

Re:End the Bailouts (1)

louic (1841824) | about 3 years ago | (#37306966)

(...) most of the time it's us, the humans, who cause a species to go extinct, not the species itself.

But it IS the species itself in that case, because it did not adapt to our presence and our behavior. Which is perfectly fine. Who ever got the idea that we are "better" or "higher" than nature, and that it is therefore up to us to decide which species get extinct and which ones don't? It is all part of nature, and we are nature as much as any other animal. We will probably kill ourselves because of that, and that will be the best thing that ever happened on this planet. Of course, that whole stem-cell species revival program could also be called part of nature. And it probably is. But we would have to understand a lot more about ecology and the influence species have on each other before even thinking that we can make a sensible decision about reintroduction of a species.

Re:End the Bailouts (1)

elsurexiste (1758620) | about 3 years ago | (#37307664)

Arranged marriages? You monster!

Laudable, but wrong approach (3, Insightful)

cowtamer (311087) | about 3 years ago | (#37306660)

While I fully support what the scientists in the TFA are trying to do, I believe there is a danger that the sophomoric intellegentsia here (on /. that is) will see the headline and think "see, technology can solve the extinction problem, no need to worry" and go on to merrily support misguided and unsustainable policies.

Species extinction, ecosystem loss, and general loss of biodiversity are not a bad source code commits that you can simply roll back with enough technology.

Re:Laudable, but wrong approach (1)

garcia (6573) | about 3 years ago | (#37307610)

While I don't think we should end species extinction, regardless of our possible involvement in it occurring, I don't see why the attempts cannot be made to better understand how stem cells can be used for other uses.

Consider it testing on animals while keeping the anti-testing radicals at bay.

Re:Laudable, but wrong approach (0)

Belial6 (794905) | about 3 years ago | (#37308912)

I would say that Slashdot has a much higher rate of discussion on the only real solution. Population control. Everywhere else I hear the discussion of global ecology, the discussions are 100% of the time about how to put off our over population problem for a few more years. I know that population control is an ugly subject. It is ugly even if your answer is to not do control, but it is unfortunately THE answer and THE subject that 'environmentalists' don't want to talk about.

Sure, it sounds like a good idea (3, Funny)

93 Escort Wagon (326346) | about 3 years ago | (#37306682)

But the next thing you know, you've got a theme park full of velociraptors hunting down the park's patrons.

Re:Sure, it sounds like a good idea (1)

ceoyoyo (59147) | about 3 years ago | (#37308538)

What's with the "but?"

Sounds awesome. If they can't pull it off in real life yet, they should make a movie.

mine (1)

currently_awake (1248758) | about 3 years ago | (#37309430)

I'm still waiting for my pet velociraptor. How am I to defend myself against the zombie hordes without velociraptors?!

Re:Sure, it sounds like a good idea (1)

Kittenman (971447) | about 3 years ago | (#37311984)

But the next thing you know, you've got a theme park full of velociraptors hunting down the park's patrons.

As long as they eat Richard Attenborough first, I'm OK with that.

How about mass domestication? (2, Interesting)

vadim_t (324782) | about 3 years ago | (#37306726)

Here's a radical idea I heard about: let's domesticate everything remotely domesticable. After all, cats and dogs aren't going to go extinct any time soon. I'm pretty sure that quite a few species like red pandas could make very viable pets. In fact they're probably endangered by their protection status. Who wouldn't want to have something this cute [novolitika.ru] ? Allow people to keep them, and they'll get bred like rabbits. Videos like this one [youtube.com] suggest that they'd make pretty fun pets.

For breeds that are too large, breed them down to a manageable size (if we can make a chihuahua surely we can make a dog sized tiger).

Experiments with foxes [wikipedia.org] seem to show that domestication is quite possible in a reasonable amount of time, and research shows that only 40 genes [cell.com] seem to be responsible for the domestication.

So, here's the idea: domesticate everything, study what changed in the genetics, and if the wild population decays too much, use the genetics research to reverse the domestication, while drawing from the abundant pet population.

I think that this might be the better solution long term, as maintaining habitats and populations is a never ending struggle, while that is never a problem for any species people have an use for.

Re:How about mass domestication? (1)

jamesh (87723) | about 3 years ago | (#37306786)

For breeds that are too large, breed them down to a manageable size (if we can make a chihuahua surely we can make a dog sized tiger).

The dog sized tiger has been done [wikipedia.org] already

Re:How about mass domestication? (1)

vadim_t (324782) | about 3 years ago | (#37306806)

Er, no. Cats and tigers are very distantly related. Cats were domesticated at their current size, nobody was breeding tigers down to a manageable shape.

Re:How about mass domestication? (1)

Buchenskjoll (762354) | about 3 years ago | (#37306788)

Congratulations on your fine idea, which basically is about preserving wildlife by turning it into something else. As a token of my appreciation I will send you 40 domesticated skunks.

Re:How about mass domestication? (1)

vadim_t (324782) | about 3 years ago | (#37306820)

That's precisely the idea, yes.

A domesticated skunk might not be exactly the same thing as the wild version, but it's pretty darn close. And if the wild ones go extinct, it should be quite easy to recreate the wild population starting from the domesticated one. Cats and dogs are managing that just fine without any extra help, even.

Re:How about mass domestication? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37306882)

like a russian bride is almost the real thing?

Re:How about mass domestication? (1, Offtopic)

vadim_t (324782) | about 3 years ago | (#37306902)

Hey, that's almost funny.

Re:How about mass domestication? (1)

interkin3tic (1469267) | about 3 years ago | (#37309830)

I'm pretty sure that quite a few species like red pandas could make very viable pets. In fact they're probably endangered by their protection status.

Quite a few? There are 8.7 million species. You name three species. That's not quite a few, that's barely anything. Maybe red pandas would work, tigers -possibly- though I can't really see a use for that (if my housecat were the size of a pony, I'd be dead when he got too playful). Domestication is not easy just because foxes did it. There was a big economic interest there.

We won't be able to domesticate giant pandas, we can barely get them to breed in captivity.

Orcas seem like an extreme long shot too. One is tremendously expensive. A whole flock? No way, no one is going to do that just to keep them around. And if you try selling their meat, no one is going to buy it, and plenty of people will get upset about that.

Polar bears? Alligators? Domesticated =/= harmless. If you spend millions domesticating a gorilla, within a year of pet gorillas going on the market, one is going to get annoyed at a little kid poking it with sticks. Gorilla rips his limbs off, and you'll never sell another one to get your investment back.

And then there's the majority of species that don't require domestication that are going endangered already. Beetles, trees, lizards etc. No, it's not a solution at all.

Hm... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37306760)

We are gonna need this for the white race.

FINALLY! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37306868)

I can get some sharks with fricking laser beams on their heads!

They won't be endangered if they can shoot back!

why not? (3, Funny)

madmayr (1969930) | about 3 years ago | (#37306894)

why not just store their genetic information in a big 'noah's ark' database let the extinction just happen, see if a creature was really needed for the ecosystem and if yes, revive it

Re:why not? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37306956)

ecosystem is ecosystem because it's adaptible and none is really needed.

Re:why not? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37307014)

Because we can't?

He haven't even recreated/cloned a mammoth, and in that case we have both genetic material and elephants that could be used as surrogate mothers.

Re:why not? (0, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37307016)

Except that all organisms are needed. Take one away or add one and it's going to either change or break in many subtle ways that may turn out to be catastrophic afterwards.

Re:why not? (3, Insightful)

bhartman34 (886109) | about 3 years ago | (#37307500)

Clearly, not all organisms are needed. Species have gone extinct since long before we got here and will continue to go extinct long after we're gone. I'm not saying we should just ravage the planet and not worry about it. I'm saying the idea that every species is precious and any species going extinct is a disaster is clearly, demonstrably false. The ultimate issue is whether or not we can adapt to the planet's changes, not whether or not we can keep it from changing. We can't.

Re:why not? (1)

Thing 1 (178996) | about 3 years ago | (#37310120)

I'm saying the idea that every species is precious and any species going extinct is a disaster is clearly, demonstrably false.

Yes, I would even go so far as to call that idea specious.

Can it save the habitat too? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37307080)

This is just a gimmick to make the public feel better about the loss of wildlife and wild places. The human population is set to double over the next thirty years (it has already doubled in my lifetime) and no politician seems willing to broach the subject.

Of course species will become extinct. It is entirely predictable. We are trashing the forest and bush where they would have lived.

Re:Can it save the habitat too? (1)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | about 3 years ago | (#37307948)

If it makes you feel any better, any time you hear about improving women's rights in impoverished countries, that's bringing population growth under control.

Important questions remain (0)

jovius (974690) | about 3 years ago | (#37307212)

Are we supposed to save all of the species or just the cute furry ones that provoke empathy? On the other hand we are keeping cattle population for example at a naturally unsustainable level.

Massive amount of creepy insects and other strange and maybe extremely poisonous creatures are probably also on the brink of extinction. The ecological niches are not indefinite. The natural course is that species come and go. The humanity has sped up the process immensely too, and many can't adapt... If we try to save everything the endangered species of today will eat each other tomorrow.

This was the case with pandas? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37307400)

Are we supposed to save all of the species or just the cute furry ones that provoke empathy?

Every time I've seen someone mention pandas or saving furry ones on /. for the years I've been reading has run to this argument. It's flawed not because they are furry but because *gasp* even furry and cute animals have the possibility of providing novel solutions.

Case and point was with the panda itself in a recent /. article [slashdot.org] from a few days back. The headline is misleading but if you read TFA you understand that we learned about some cool bacteria while we were busy finding them cute and cuddly.

AC

Re:This was the case with pandas? (0)

bhartman34 (886109) | about 3 years ago | (#37307512)

The headline is misleading but if you read TFA you understand that we learned about some cool bacteria while we were busy finding them cute and cuddly.

AC

That's not terribly relevant to his point. His point is that we a) can't save every species, and b) probably shouldn't save every species. Human beings are a species just like every other animal. We have adapted extremely well, which is why we're the controlling (if not exactly dominant) lifeform on the planet. We should do what we can to make sure we can still survive (which might mean trying to keep some species from going extinct), but the idea that we should drastically impact our own survival to save animals we have some emotional attachment to (even if that emotional attachment accidentally has some benefit somewhere down the line) is silly.

Re:This was the case with pandas? (1)

jovius (974690) | about 3 years ago | (#37308160)

That's not terribly relevant to his point. His point is that we a) can't save every species, and b) probably shouldn't save every species.

The real question is why the some species are endangered and some die en masse. Can we do anything to the fundamental reasons or do we end up having a zoo of resurrected species ot species that can't survive, an ark sort of. That would be beautiful and tragic at the same time, a sort of testament to what we can do - in every sense. The truth is that many species are dying, and there's nothing unnatural about it. The Earth's resources are limited, and an extinction is a natural consequence to the resources running out. We ourselves will face an upper limit of sustainable population some time in the future.

We should not however need to fight for our survival anymore.

End game for natural selection? (2)

rocket rancher (447670) | about 3 years ago | (#37308154)

According to one notable ethologist [wikipedia.org] , 99% of all the phenotypes ever produced by DNA sequences are extinct, with the current surviving phenotypes exquisitely adapted via natural selection to the current environment. Are we seeing a paradigm shift in natural selection? DNA is certainly capable of directed selection, as famously pointed out by another notable ethologist; [wikipedia.org] DNA now seems to be able to alter natural selection ex post facto. If true, it is a fucking stunning achievement for DNA.

its the ecosystem stupid (1)

decora (1710862) | about 3 years ago | (#37308340)

endangered species are mostly endangered by habitat destruction. you cannot have forest panther without the forest. you cant have a desert elephant without the desert. you cant have a polar bear without the polar. saving a single animal's DNA is just moronic.

Re:its the ecosystem stupid (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37312292)

TFA is about northern white rhinos, which are critically endangered by heavy poaching.

So actually for some species, human-caused extinction could be avoided simply by such artificial reproduction techniques. In fact this may be the only way, since there are now so few of these rhinos left that we don't have time to try more experiments to find out how to encourage breeding. (We certainly can't figure it out by observing wild populations, since we've poached those to extinction already.)

Also, if we had a technology to reproduce these animals at a much faster rate than is natural, then poachers (who are using other recent technology to eliminate these animals at a much faster rate than is natural) would cease to be a problem. Posters above have already made the case for preservation by domestication, but in this case (despite all our attempts to eradicate the ridiculous belief that keratin obtains some mysterious power when taken from some phallic icon) clearly the economy already does have a use for these rhinos (and lack of reproductive technology is the main obstacle to farming them, so we would not even need to modify these animals to be more appealing). Thus this technology could easily pay back its own development, even without considering the spinoffs that such iPSC germ cell research would be anticipated to advance human medicine.

But it's still valid for you to emphasise the ecosystem (or would be if you weren't unconstructive). Even if not applicable to these particular animals, habitat encroachment is certainly becoming the prime factor in the incredible rate of current extinctions. This is devastating, since our understanding of DNA is only just advancing to the point that we recognise what a wealth of information is being lost with diminishing biodiversity, it's like burning the library that stores millions of years of engineering insights which can guide biotechnology (for example, most pharmaceuticals even today are discovered, not invented, and their processes of chemical synthesis are similarly not only inspired by biology but often too difficult or more expensive to synthesis except through harvesting natural components), not to mention the encoded historical record (without which our understanding of our past must always have larger gaps), and abstract value (which only grows as are progressively less preoccuppied labouring for bare necessities). Hence the huge importance that we curb the raw growth (rather than development) of the economy, like we are finally only beginning to do in the issue of carbon. And that we halt this planet's human population growth (and it looks like being a long time before we have somewhere else to populate): we educate women (and quit forbidding family-planning tools while we're at it) and do more to eliminate extreme poverty (rather than using the reality that a portion of funds will leak and miss our target as an excuse to not contribute to the target at all). We generally need to adopt a more progressive stance, and quit bashing science, decora. Each extinction may cause a cascade. Who knows what other (perhaps little-known) species may be indirectly dependent on the existence on these rhinos for example. Certainly there will be species-specific parasites that directly depend on the host, which may not be as appealing but still embody potentially-useful knowledge. We only recently realised how organisms unique to a panda's gut are relevant to the development of biofuels.

Re:its the ecosystem stupid (1)

CesiumFrog (41314) | about 3 years ago | (#37312300)

TFA is about northern white rhinos, which are critically endangered by heavy poaching.

So actually for some species, human-caused extinction could be avoided simply by such artificial reproduction techniques. In fact this may be the only way, since there are now so few of these rhinos left that we don't have time to try more experiments to find out how to encourage breeding. (We certainly can't figure it out by observing wild populations, since we've poached those to extinction already.)

Also, if we had a technology to reproduce these animals at a much faster rate than is natural, then poachers (who are using other recent technology to eliminate these animals at a much faster rate than is natural) would cease to be a problem. Posters above have already made the case for preservation by domestication, but in this case (despite all our attempts to eradicate the ridiculous belief that keratin obtains some mysterious power when taken from some phallic icon) clearly the economy already does have a use for these rhinos (and lack of reproductive technology is the main obstacle to farming them, so we would not even need to modify these animals to be more appealing). Thus this technology could easily pay back its own development, even without considering the spinoffs that such iPSC germ cell research would be anticipated to advance human medicine.

But it's still valid for you to emphasise the ecosystem (or would be if you weren't unconstructive). Even if not applicable to these particular animals, habitat encroachment is certainly becoming the prime factor in the incredible rate of current extinctions. This is devastating, since our understanding of DNA is only just advancing to the point that we recognise what a wealth of information is being lost with diminishing biodiversity, it's like burning the library that stores millions of years of engineering insights which can guide biotechnology (for example, most pharmaceuticals even today are discovered, not invented, and their processes of chemical synthesis are similarly not only inspired by biology but often too difficult or more expensive to synthesis except through harvesting natural components), not to mention the encoded historical record (without which our understanding of our past must always have larger gaps), and abstract value (which only grows as are progressively less preoccuppied labouring for bare necessities). Hence the huge importance that we curb the raw growth (rather than development) of the economy, like we are finally only beginning to do in the issue of carbon. And that we halt this planet's human population growth (and it looks like being a long time before we have somewhere else to populate): we educate women (and quit forbidding family-planning tools while we're at it) and do more to eliminate extreme poverty (rather than using the reality that a portion of funds will leak and miss our target as an excuse to not contribute to the target at all). We generally need to adopt a more progressive stance, and quit bashing science, decora. Each extinction may cause a cascade. Who knows what other (perhaps little-known) species may be indirectly dependent on the existence on these rhinos for example. Certainly there will be species-specific parasites that directly depend on the host, which may not be as appealing but still embody potentially-useful knowledge. We only recently realised how organisms unique to a panda's gut are relevant to the development of biofuels.

(didn't really intend anonymous)

Unintended consequences (1)

currently_awake (1248758) | about 3 years ago | (#37309464)

Stopping extinctions isn't about being nice, it's about keeping the world livable. Nature doesn't die out it just adapts to the environment. If regular animals can't survive they will mutate/evolve into monsters that can, or develop intelligence so they can build weapons and take back the wilderness by force.
Check for New Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?

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>