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The Mammoth Cometh: Revive & Restore Tackles De-Extinction

samzenpus posted about 7 months ago | from the they're-back dept.

Science 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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just buy an costa rica island to put them on (4, Funny)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | about 7 months ago | (#46382693)

just buy an costa rica island to put them on

Re:just buy an costa rica island to put them on (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about 7 months ago | (#46382743)

No, no you've got it all backwards. By the time they can make a whole bunch of hairy elephants (which is what they are doing, not making 'real' mammoths) Costa Rica will be a desert island, suitable for unhairy elephants but not denziens of the Northern Steppes.

Re:just buy an costa rica island to put them on (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46382979)

No, no you've got it all backwards. By the time they can make a whole bunch of hairy elephants

Oh great. I can see the hairy elephants waxing themselves because it greatly increases their chances of finding a mate.

Re:just buy an costa rica island to put them on (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46383085)

make a whole bunch of hairy elephants (which is what they are doing, not making 'real' mammoths)

Oversimplification. They're making something that isn't a 'real' mammoth, and isn't an elephant. It's a new animal that they're trying to make as mammoth-like as possible, but it's going to have parts of both animals (nuclear and maybe mitochondrial DNA from mammoths, but the rest of the cell from an elephant, as well as gestating inside one)

Re:just buy an costa rica island to put them on (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46383193)

I'm not a biologist by a long shot.. but mitochondrial + nuclear DNA would make an actual mammoth, no matter where it gestates. Either that, or I've completely misunderstood everything I've ever read on the subject, which -admittedly- isn't very much. Anyone with actual knowledge on the subject care to clarify?

Re:just buy an costa rica island to put them on (3, Informative)

Oligonicella (659917) | about 7 months ago | (#46384611)

You are correct, it's the DNA what counts. Mitochondrial might even be fudged and it would still be a mammoth. We currently use rabbits to transmit cattle embryos. They wouldn't be part rabbit even it term were possible. (Yeah, yeah, ouch)

Re:just buy an costa rica island to put them on (1)

Oligonicella (659917) | about 7 months ago | (#46384617)

Oh, and to add... My daughter has delivered surrogate. Like she says, she's the delivery system, not the mother.

Re:just buy an costa rica island to put them on (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about 7 months ago | (#46383139)

Ingen will simply buy Novaya Zemlya, then. ;-)

Re:just buy an costa rica island to put them on (5, Funny)

ArcadeMan (2766669) | about 7 months ago | (#46382753)

Great idea! In the meantime, I'll gather a billionaire, a paleontologist, a paleobotanist, a mathematician and chaos theorist and an annoying granddaughter and grandson.

It's too bad you think she's annoying, because in (5, Interesting)

SteveFoerster (136027) | about 7 months ago | (#46382841)

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 [galleryariana.com] .

Re:It's too bad you think she's annoying, because (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46383117)

Then why is she dying her hair so badly? Or is that a modern art project on her head?

Re: It's too bad you think she's annoying, because (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46384393)

My god, a judgemental comment posted anonymously online?! What new spore of madness is this?!

Re:It's too bad you think she's annoying, because (1)

skine (1524819) | about 7 months ago | (#46384605)

If only her character were a real person. Not only is she beautiful, but if you remember she got genuinely excited over Unix. My guess is that she'd have a three-digit /. ID, at most.

Yeah, but.. (1)

Ecuador (740021) | about 7 months ago | (#46384647)

does she run Linux?

Re:It's too bad you think she's annoying, because (0)

gmhowell (26755) | about 7 months ago | (#46384813)

She's okay, but 'really beautiful'?

And why did you mention looks when OP specifically mentioned the sum of personality traits. In your attempt at white knighting, you actually come across as more obnoxious than the post you reply to.

Large saber toothed cats... (2)

pigiron (104729) | about 7 months ago | (#46382695)

will no doubt be thrilling (although I would personally prefer seeing a return of packs of dire wolves) unless you are out for a hike. They will certainly be one more nail in the coffin of gun control.

Re:Large saber toothed cats... (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about 7 months ago | (#46382757)

What? You think that herds of bad tempered hairy elephants can be stopped with tasers?

Re:Large saber toothed cats... (1)

pigiron (104729) | about 7 months ago | (#46382901)

You need to read my post again more slowly.

Do not start your comment in the subject ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46384361)

heading.

You need to read my post again more slowly.

What you wrote seemed to imply that gun control, already on it's last legs, would be close to death were "large sabre tooth cats" revivified (or did you mean the opposite?). Your post per se, however, made not reference to cats. That GP mistook your post for being on-topic is entirely due to wretched habit of placing discursive material in the subject field. Your bad.

Re:Do not start your comment in the subject ... (1)

pigiron (104729) | about 7 months ago | (#46384405)

Get bent anonymous coward. It's one of my favorite techniques.

Re:Do not start your comment in the subject ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46384765)

Get bent anonymous coward.

Too late, I've been bent for decades.

It's one of my favorite techniques.

And as a technique for making it likely that you are not properly understood it has much to recommend itself. It is, however, churlish to complain when the technique is as successful as it was above.

Re:Do not start your comment in the subject ... (1)

pigiron (104729) | about 7 months ago | (#46384817)

If you take the time to see what post I am replying to you should not get confused.

Re:Do not start your comment in the subject ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46384911)

If you take the time to see what post I am replying to you should not get confused.

You were not replying to any post. You began a new thread with a discursive subject line. You are not important enough that people would want to take the time. If you want to get your message across you need to make it easy for the reader, not to erect obstacles in their path.

As a matter of fact, many people do not read the subject heading. If you knowingly put information where readers are less likely to see it you cannot be surprised when it remains unread.

As a matter of practice you are being misunderstood. On of the reasons has now pointed out to you. Should you wish to continue to sabotage your communication you are of course free to do so. But to re-iterate, it is churlish to complain on those occasions where your self-sabotage is successful.

Many dumb... (1)

pigiron (104729) | about 7 months ago | (#46384967)

people do not read the subject line. It is their loss plus it is an easy way to bifurcate threads.

Some advice to you: many people do not read comments that start off with a score of zero. :-)

You are not on the Gnome UI design team by any cha (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46385107)

nce, are you?

Some advice to you: many people do not read comments that start off with a score of zero.

That does not include you obviously. And since I'm communicating with you, and you alone, it is impertinent what "many people" do.

people do not read the subject line. It is their loss plus it is an easy way to bifurcate threads.

You want to bifurcate on the basis of people and not-people?

Now I don't know, because I didn't read the subject line ;), but you may have meant that people of lower intelligence sometimes do not read the subject line. That is probably true. However, I can guarantee that people with intelligence several SDs above the norm (as measured by the admittedly problematic metric of IQ) also, on occasion, do no read the subject line. I suspect, in fact, that the more intelligent the reader, the greater the likelihood that the subject line will go unread.

However you really have been granted more of my time than you deserve (I shall not respond again). You seem stubbornly to want to maintain your poor communication habits. That's your right. But again, do not feign surprise when, having calculated to be misunderstood, you achieve your objective.

Re:Large saber toothed cats... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46382849)

Raptors. Every card holding NRA member will want to see raptors resurrected for that thrilling, group hunting exercise.

Re:Large saber toothed cats... (4, Funny)

pigiron (104729) | about 7 months ago | (#46382919)

It's currently illegal to shoot raptors (hawks, eagles, falcons etc.) in the US and Canada.

Re:Large saber toothed cats... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46383611)

Reference to a reality television show gathering together a billionaire, a paleontologist, a paleobotanist, a mathematician and chaos theorist and an annoying granddaughter and grandson was missed by many.

Re:Large saber toothed cats... (1)

pigiron (104729) | about 7 months ago | (#46383895)

It was a book then a movie, not a TV show.

Re:Large saber toothed cats... (1)

lazy genes (741633) | about 7 months ago | (#46384125)

In the near future, I'll be smoking pot all day with my pet giant sloth watching Jurassic Park.

Re:Large saber toothed cats... (5, Insightful)

phantomfive (622387) | about 7 months ago | (#46383047)

Raptors. Every card holding NRA member will want to see raptors resurrected for that thrilling, group hunting exercise.

It may seem strange to you, but hunters tend to be one of the most conservation-oriented groups out there. They do care about the environment.

hunters and conservation (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46383121)

Hunters and fishers hate it when people destroy natural habitats with tract housing or businesses poison rivers. Sustainable hunting and fishing and conservation of our natural resources means that future generations will be able to enjoy the same connection to nature that we have found.

The idea of stewardship is very important to hunters, but to some environmentalists it has a negative reaction.

Re:hunters and conservation (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46383207)

Yep.. "stewardship" doesn't ring true very accurately when you're apparently out there to kill the wildlife.

Re:hunters and conservation (2)

mrchaotica (681592) | about 7 months ago | (#46383311)

The revenues from hunting and fishing licenses are pretty much the reason why we can afford to keep a lot of that nature around instead of selling it off for farming or development.

Re:hunters and conservation (2)

pigiron (104729) | about 7 months ago | (#46383937)

The conservation/hunting group Ducks Unlimited is pretty much the only reason that we have wetlands protection and geese and ducks are still around.

Re:hunters and conservation (1)

Gavagai80 (1275204) | about 7 months ago | (#46384421)

Sometimes hunting is necessary to stewardship, controlling populations. Not that that's why hunters enjoy it.

Re:hunters and conservation (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46384621)

Sometimes. Other times not so much, like when hunters opposed the reintroduction of wolves into Yellowstone.

What most hunters steward are rich hunting grounds, not a diverse ecosystem, and those two things can be very different. But hunters are definitely one counter balance to industrial interests.

Re:Large saber toothed cats... (4, Insightful)

Uberbah (647458) | about 7 months ago | (#46383355)

It may seem strange to you, but hunters tend to be one of the most conservation-oriented groups out there. They do care about the environment.

Only as far as it allows them to continue to shoot stuff. That river and lake system contaminated from a coal company spill? Not known for it's fishing or goose migration, so nobody cares. And that's just the apathy - there's outright hostility towards wolves, because they make it a little harder to get that trophy elk mounted in the den.

Re:Large saber toothed cats... (1)

tomhath (637240) | about 7 months ago | (#46384273)

That river and lake system contaminated from a coal company spill? Not known for it's fishing or goose migration, so nobody cares. And that's just the apathy - there's outright hostility towards wolves

Wrong and wrong. Hunters and fishermen are the first to contribute to river/wetland protection and cleanup efforts. As far as wolves, show me one reference to hunters' hostility to wolves. Ranchers yes, hunters no.

Re:Large saber toothed cats... (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46384727)

'Reflecting the concerns of hunters about the impact of wolves on game, Jean Johnson, executive director of the Montana Outfitters and Guides Association, said that wolves are having a serious effect on hunting opportunities and “15 pairs is more than we need.” Wolves’ impact on elk populations has been the subject of contention since reintroduction was first proposed, with some hunters and outfitters claiming that wolves have decimated elk populations. Biologists aren’t so sure, however, and studies are ongoing to determine how elk populations fare in the presence of wolves, drought, and other factors.'

Source: http://fwp.mt.gov/doingBusiness/reference/montanaChallenge/vignettes/wolf.html

Your experience with hunting is not necessarily the experience of most hunters. Rich hunting grounds and a diverse ecosystem are not the same thing, not by a long shot. And while I have no doubt there are many ecologically conscious hunters, most hunters are just that... hunters. Many times their interests align with the ecology, but other times the alignment is far from perfect.

Re:Large saber toothed cats... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46385139)

Also, hunting is so incredibly butch gay.

Re:Large saber toothed cats... (1)

khallow (566160) | about 7 months ago | (#46384739)

Only as far as it allows them to continue to shoot stuff.

Which let us note is pretty damn far since it implies creation of wild areas where hunting is allowed and protection of species upon which the hunters would hunt or which hunted animals rely.

Re:Large saber toothed cats... (1)

Grey Geezer (2699315) | about 7 months ago | (#46383949)

"hunters tend to be one of the most conservation-oriented groups out there"

On the other hand, hunters, and the money they spend on hunting related stuff, have had a negative impact on predator restoration efforts. Some state wildlife managers have decided that we can't have wolves competing for live targets (prey animals) and thus reducing the money their harvest brings in.

Re:Large saber toothed cats... (1)

tomhath (637240) | about 7 months ago | (#46384279)

citation needed

Re:Large saber toothed cats... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46385101)

I love how the new and educated hunters are constantly telling people: "hunting has hardly anything to do with killing... in fact, there's hardly any killing at all! Its really about saving the planet and our trouble species along with it. Hunters have big hearts, they really do!"

They can but SHOULD THEY (1)

RobertLTux (260313) | about 7 months ago | (#46382747)

I mean if they do this sometime they are going to recreate something NASTY.

Do we really want to have something that you would need to hunt using an AA12 or M60??

Re:They can but SHOULD THEY (1)

pigiron (104729) | about 7 months ago | (#46382767)

Ant African big game rifle should suffice. Think 375 Holland&Holland on up.

Re:They can but SHOULD THEY (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about 7 months ago | (#46382799)

Screw that. I want an excuse to buy an M60 [wikipedia.org] .

Re:They can but SHOULD THEY (1)

pigiron (104729) | about 7 months ago | (#46382835)

The M-60 blows chunks. It overheats and jams. The Marines wanted to go with the current M-240 way back when but the Army put the kibosh on it. At least we have it now.

Re:They can but SHOULD THEY (1)

noh8rz10 (2716597) | about 7 months ago | (#46385007)

the problem is the military-industrial complex that basically makes war decisions based on benjamins, not based on saving troop lives. M16, M60, F27. the osprey. All acknowledged to be problematic. eisenhower called it 60 years ago.

Re:They can but SHOULD THEY (3, Funny)

roc97007 (608802) | about 7 months ago | (#46383685)

"Broke into the wrong God damn rec room, didn't ya you bastard!"

Re:They can but SHOULD THEY (1)

Overzeetop (214511) | about 7 months ago | (#46384229)

That movie was so bad it was good. Or, at the least, fun to watch.

Re:They can but SHOULD THEY (1)

roc97007 (608802) | about 7 months ago | (#46384431)

The series was fun also.

Re:They can but SHOULD THEY (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46382789)

Heh kids these days. Saying they need high callibre firearms. Back in my day we hunted them with spears and bow and arrow!

Re:They can but SHOULD THEY (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46382887)

No you didn't, you pissed them off with those and tricked them into running off cliffs.

Re:They can but SHOULD THEY (1)

Number42 (3443229) | about 7 months ago | (#46383165)

The fine art of trolling existed that far back?

Re:They can but SHOULD THEY (1)

HiThere (15173) | about 7 months ago | (#46385087)

IIUC, you did not hunt an elephant with a spear until AFTER you had severed its Achilles tendon. With a sharp knife. Which took maximum stealth, because if it caught on to what you were up to in time it would trample you.

I suppose that a modern high compound bow combined with poisoned arrows might work, but I've never heard that approach called traditional.

That's Fronkensteen (1)

fustakrakich (1673220) | about 7 months ago | (#46382783)

Re:That's Fronkensteen (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46384413)

Will we do the same to ourselves once we successfully make our own planet uninhabitable??

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0HPkC1puCtY Pepsi (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46382791)

I wanted to thank you for this great read!! I definitely enjoying every little bit of it I have you bookmarked to check out new stuff you post.

how it always starts.... (5, Funny)

ddusza (775603) | about 7 months ago | (#46382951)

"Oh, yeah. Oooh, ahhh, that's how it always starts. Then later there's running and screaming."

Trying to understand the "anti-" arguments here... (5, Insightful)

jeffb (2.718) (1189693) | about 7 months ago | (#46382955)

Some of the arguments against "de-extinction" (there's got to be a better term) puzzle me.

"Why go through all the trouble just to have the animal go extinct all over again?" First, perhaps we're now in a position to avoid the stupid actions that drove extinction the first time -- in the case of the passenger pigeon, and perhaps even the mammoth, over-hunting. Second, this argument would seem to apply equally to species that aren't extinct at all, but merely endangered. Whey go to any arbitrary amount of effort to protect a species, when it's likely to go extinct (eventually) no matter what we do?

"It's likely to become a new disease vector." This happens all the time anyhow. As the article points out, restoring a species that competes with current "pest" species (rodents and deer) may well reduce transmission of diseases like Lyme that are currently increasing.

I'd like to see some discussion that focuses on the differences between "de-extinction" and restoration of endangered-but-not-quite-extinct species. I'd also like to see some discussion about efforts like the American Chestnut Foundation [acf.org] , which is working to undo the profound damage from the early-20th-century arrival of chestnut blight in the US. Our forests have adapted to the loss of the chestnut, and its re-introduction would surely cause another ecological upheaval. Does anyone see this as a dangerous undertaking? If not, why not?

Re:Trying to understand the "anti-" arguments here (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46383053)

A lot of our conservation efforts amount to regional 'de-extinction'. Take reintroducing Canadian wolves into American habitats where they were driven out of, for instance. How is whole-species de-extinction different from this? (Genetic/technical arguments and such aside, since those aren't what have been presented here)

Re:Trying to understand the "anti-" arguments here (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46383169)

> First, perhaps we're now in a position to avoid the stupid actions that drove extinction the first time

We're not even in a position to prevent the current ongoing extinctions. When we stop driving currently living species out of existence, then maybe you can convince me we're ready to start undoing some past damage. Might as well stop the bleeding first.

Re:Trying to understand the "anti-" arguments here (4, Interesting)

Intrepid imaginaut (1970940) | about 7 months ago | (#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.

Re:Trying to understand the "anti-" arguments here (1)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | about 7 months ago | (#46383859)

would you rather they go extinct anyway and vanish forever?

Does the phrase "think of it as evolution in action?" have any meaning for you?

New species evolving and old species going extinct are both part of evolution. And restoring extinct species to life is pretty much the same as GMO corn - they're both humans changing things for their own benefit without regard to the effect on the biosphere as a whole.

Re:Trying to understand the "anti-" arguments here (1)

khallow (566160) | about 7 months ago | (#46384711)

And restoring extinct species to life is pretty much the same as GMO corn - they're both humans changing things for their own benefit without regard to the effect on the biosphere as a whole.

Except that one was at some point in the past a creature not formed by man and the other never was.

Re:Trying to understand the "anti-" arguments here (3, Insightful)

khallow (566160) | about 7 months ago | (#46384691)

We're not even in a position to prevent the current ongoing extinctions.

So we're not in a position to set aside land for the species at risk? We're not in a position to reduce or regulate human activities that could harm the viability of this species? We're not in a position to fight invasive species that might be competing with or preying upon the endangered species? I disagree. I think we're in a position to do all these things, if we think they are worthy enough.

Re:Trying to understand the "anti-" arguments here (1)

roc97007 (608802) | about 7 months ago | (#46383709)

Ok, but how about, there's a reason why species go extinct -- to make room for other species.

In other words, Some of the arguments against evolution puzzle me.

Re:Trying to understand the "anti-" arguments here (1)

jeffb (2.718) (1189693) | about 7 months ago | (#46384957)

I'm pretty sure saying "there's a reason why species go extinct" is begging all sorts of teleological questions. Humans are a part of the natural (occurring in nature) evolutionary process, and so is this effort. Unless you want to argue that humans are somehow outside or beyond the natural universe...?

Chestnuts don't kill you and humans screw up (1)

raymorris (2726007) | about 7 months ago | (#46385047)

The difference between restoring chestnuts vs assorted prehistoric animals is that chestnuts don't kill you. A mammoth may very well kill you.

Another argument is that we humans tend to mess up nature. Killer bees come to mind. We may think that what we're doing is okay, then it turns out that it was a really bad idea. Consider for example all of the invasive species we've brought from other continents. We should be very, very careful about messing around with mother nature. She can be a bad ass bitch.

mixed feelings (1)

The Grim Reefer (1162755) | about 7 months ago | (#46382957)

On one hand, it would be really cool to be able to bring back mammoths. On the other, with a warming planet, their preferred habitat will be shrinking in the future. So it seems kind of cruel. What about the saber-tooth tiger? Can we bring them back too? They're not cute and fluffy, so I guess not. Even so, mammoths went extinct before it was likely our fault. Perhaps we should figure out how to save the animals we are currently pushing toward extinction before we start bringing ones back that have been gone for tens of thousands of years.

Re:mixed feelings (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46383067)

Save your judgement until you've tried mammoth steaks.

Re:mixed feelings (1)

Pino Grigio (2232472) | about 7 months ago | (#46384321)

Don't be silly. The mammoth evolved about 1.5 million years ago. Quite a few interglacials between then and now when the temperature was a lot higher, yet they did not go extinct then.

Cometh (5, Funny)

Optimal Cynic (2886377) | about 7 months ago | (#46382971)

The Mammoth Cometh

I'll get the mop.

Re:Cometh (1)

roc97007 (608802) | about 7 months ago | (#46383719)

What's grey and comes in quarts?

Bad genetic diversity, flaws in resurrected genome (4, Insightful)

PeterM from Berkeley (15510) | about 7 months ago | (#46383041)

I can't see this working out well. Probably only a small number of individuals could be resurrected, simply because of lack of good DNA samples, and I bet a lot of errors would be introduced in de-extinction given current tech.

Genetic diversity, therefore, in the de-extinct species would be incredibly poor and any second generation would likely be rather sickly and not resistant to diseases. Either that or a continuous and very difficult (impossible?) genetic engineering effort would have to be involved in restoring genetic diversity to the species.

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. If you don't have a chicken egg, how do you raise a chicken with just the DNA and some other egg? Your other egg may not provide the right environment for correct genetic expression and you may end up with some sort of chimera of dubious viability and authenticity. Incompatible mitochondria are an obvious issue.

Third, given the first two, your de-extinct species is likely to simply go extinct again unless you correct the environmental issues that led to the first extinction. And given the rate at which we're screwing up the planet, is that really realistic?

I think it'd actually be better to devote resources to discovering and preserving as much as possible of DNA and related structures for future de-extinction attempts when technology is better and we've learned better planetary management.

--PeterM

Re:Bad genetic diversity, flaws in resurrected gen (3, Interesting)

TheRealMindChild (743925) | about 7 months ago | (#46383327)

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.

Re:Bad genetic diversity, flaws in resurrected gen (3, Interesting)

infinitelink (963279) | about 7 months ago | (#46384345)

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.

Re:Bad genetic diversity, flaws in resurrected gen (1)

jeffb (2.718) (1189693) | about 7 months ago | (#46384527)

I can't see this working out well. Probably only a small number of individuals could be resurrected, simply because of lack of good DNA samples, and I bet a lot of errors would be introduced in de-extinction given current tech.

Genetic diversity, therefore, in the de-extinct species would be incredibly poor and any second generation would likely be rather sickly and not resistant to diseases. Either that or a continuous and very difficult (impossible?) genetic engineering effort would have to be involved in restoring genetic diversity to the species.

They address this briefly in the article. They intend to perturb the genome to introduce variability. I don't know whether they'd do this by introducing traits from the host species, or just more-efficiently permuting the variation from existing individual samples, or whether we've actually reached the point where we can synthesize variation based on our understanding of allele function in other species.

bringing back the body without the culture (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46383091)

Animals have culture too. It is learned behavior on top of hard-wired instinct that makes an animal behave the way the characteristically do. "Bringing back" the passenger pidgeon will not restore its migration patterns, because the navigation data is not baked into their dna but was stored in their brains. Same thing goes for the mammoth, just because we can recreate the hardware does not mean we will have the same animal we had before. Since you are such a geek, think someone perfectly recreates the motherboard of some 1970s arcade machine but no roms with the games itself have turned up. Sure you can still make something out of that motherboard, you can go and write a new game for it. But it just wont ever be like the old games were. So again the same thing with the restored mammoth, over time the species will again learn behaviors they can pass on to their young, but yet again this will not bring the species back...

and we must ask is it a generally a good thing to bring extinct species back?? Do we want to share our national parks with the short-faced bear, the largest and most caniverous predatoy mammal that ever lived and that used to pray on other bears(!)?? I can already tell you even the grizzly bears don't want them to come back, they have done the past thousands of years quiet well without them. The only reason I can see to bring back the mammoth is its meat, yes I will certainly try that steak.

Re:bringing back the body without the culture (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about 7 months ago | (#46383531)

The TFA had an answer for that - you would raise them with a flock of regular pigeons and move the aviaries around until they presumably figured out their 'natural' route, then release a few, capture the ones that figured it out and breed those.

Sounded pretty insane but a good way to get grant funding.

Its an interesting idea.... (1)

mark-t (151149) | about 7 months ago | (#46383107)

... but are they hoping to create enough for the population to sustain itself through breeding? Or are they just going to create such creatures to live in isolation?

I might be thinking of something else, and somebody who may have appropriate reference material handy please feel free to correct me, but from what I think I remember reading about the Mammoth back when I as learning about such creatures in school is that they were by all indications very social creatures, particularly the females, generally living in communities, and not at all solitary... and creating only a very small number of them could arguably be considered a type of animal cruelty.

Eventually (1)

The Cat (19816) | about 7 months ago | (#46383155)

This will literally bite us in the ass. This simply brings into specific relief the age-old argument between the self-assured arrogant prick scientist:

Henry Wu: You're implying that a group composed entirely of female animals will... breed?

And people with enough perspective and wisdom to understand that there is more to the world than science:

Dr. Ian Malcolm: No, I'm, I'm simply saying that life, uh... finds a way.

And there it is.

Not de-extinction, requires egg from other species (1)

The Real Dr John (716876) | about 7 months ago | (#46383233)

This effort will probably never result in anything like true de-extinction. It will result in hybrids at best because to bring back an extinct species, you need a living egg from a closely related species. For mammoths they will use elephant eggs, and replace the genetic material in the nucleus with gene sequences from mammoths. But part of what it means to be a species resides in the egg cytoplasm, rather than in the egg nucleus. The genetic material is like a tape recording, and the egg is like a tape player. You need both to hear what is on the tape. So we will have hybrids with nuclear mammoth genes, but cytoplasmic elephant genes (for example, mitochondria have their own DNA, and that will come from the elephant egg donor). So the resultant mammoths will be better than 90% mammoth (if they get all the sequences right from frozen mammoths), but the other small percentage will be true elephant in character. There is no getting around this because there are no viable mammoth eggs left on earth.

You need more than a Mammoth genome (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46383237)

What about all the ancient gut bacteria that you don't have genetic data for? Complex multicellular organisms often have more symbiotic microorganisms in and around their bodies than they have body cells themselves.

Kentucky Fried Dodo (2)

Mister Liberty (769145) | about 7 months ago | (#46383309)

Personally I can't wait for orders taken for 'em.
They say they tasted great.

Re:Kentucky Fried Dodo (3, Informative)

roc97007 (608802) | about 7 months ago | (#46383759)

Um, not really. My understanding is that dodos tasted terrible. (Look up the Dutch word "walgvogel".) It wasn't that we ate them all, it's that we introduced predators into their environment that ate their eggs.

Re:Kentucky Fried Dodo (1)

KreAture (105311) | about 7 months ago | (#46384655)

Yep, nesting on the ground requires a predator free environment. Same thing with the Megapode which is having a hard time in multiple habitats... (No not just from the hunts by the senior staff at The Unseen University...)

Yum! (1, Funny)

eviljav (68734) | about 7 months ago | (#46383387)

Since the indians ate all the best tasting animals first, these are probably really good!

Bring back undomesticated food (0)

Khopesh (112447) | about 7 months ago | (#46383393)

The core tenant behind the increasingly popular paleo diet [wikipedia.org] is that food has been over-domesticated, favoring things like size, portability, and crop yield rather than health. Taste is often also low on the priority list (though higher than health). Wild plants like dandelion greens and ramps are significantly healthier than our domesticated cabbages for example.

The same goes for meat. Wild game meat is far healthier than meat from a factory farm. It's often tastier as well, though the farmed stuff tends to be fattier (and fat equals flavor). I'd love to try the meat of an ancestor of the cow that pre-dates its domestication. (It should also be eating and excersizing similar to the way it would in the wild rather than eating corn [npr.org] and living in tight quarters.)

Re:Bring back undomesticated food (2)

roc97007 (608802) | about 7 months ago | (#46383779)

The problem as I see it for mass adoption of such a diet is that people these days think meat comes in packages in the store. There's been a complete disconnect between what meat is and what it comes from. I suspect such an effort wouldn't get very far -- as soon as urban people saw meat that .. you know .. really looked like an animal, the would be a huge hue and cry, and there'd be huge pressure to go back to eating faceless meat that came from factories.

Re:Bring back undomesticated food (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46384531)

It is wholy unsuitable for mass adoption. The whole damn point of agriculture was more reliable and higher density food supplies. That isn't even getting into the psuedoscience (paleolithics couldn't afford to be picky beyond "don't eat things that will kill you instantly") for one. Hell tool marks on human bones show that they most likely didn't even avoid cannibalism! (Technically could have just been ritual defleshing but...)

Covering all the options (1)

spasm (79260) | about 7 months ago | (#46384065)

"it's going to be very, very cool. Unless it ends up being very, very bad."

Well, I think that covers pretty much all the options..

Read the Bible (2, Funny)

MrL0G1C (867445) | about 7 months ago | (#46384069)

Mammoths never existed, GOD just put those bones and fossils there because he like to fuck with you.

Wait, mammoths? (1)

dishpig (877882) | about 7 months ago | (#46384121)

Can't we just start with something we can easily drive back into extinction if it's a flop? How about Dodos? There is almost no chance of vast migratory herds of Dodos thundering across the tundra and mashing the unawares underfoot. If they start to bug us, we'll just eat them all.

wrong department, sorry (1)

jcomeau_ictx (696704) | about 7 months ago | (#46384131)

please refile under the what-could-possibly-go-wrong dept. thanks!

Well, Darwin said... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46384609)

...that extinction was a necessary part of the evolutionary process. It does bother me though that species are now becoming extinct at such a rapid rate, because of the thoughtlessness of our own species, and before we learn what we can about them. At the very least it would be interesting ("thrilling") to see once extinct species (safely in zoos, than you very much) but perhaps some things of practical scientific value could also come out of this. De-extincting some of those little amazonian creatures that appeared to have interesting medical implications might be worthwhile if there's not already too much lost of them to identify.

Mmmmm! (1)

CHIT2ME (2667601) | about 7 months ago | (#46384657)

Mmmmm! Mammoth steak!!!
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