Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Biological Ignorance Versus Sexy Biology

A couple of science articles. The first one is similar to Julie's entry a few days ago. It's about a worm that isn't a worm. The second article is about the frozen carcass of a baby mammoth that was just discovered. It's been shipped to Japan for extensive analysis. If it's intact enough, they'll be able to sequence the entire mammoth genome and then do a comparative analysis with African and Asian elephants' genomes. There is a Siberian biologist who is setting up a park to bring back the Pleistocene ecosystem of the last Ice Age. I would like to see the mammoths return. But even more, I'd like to see the cheetahs and tigers make a come back. Many tiger species are on the brink of extinction, like the Sumatran tiger. This goes for the Amur leopards, as well. Conservation is obviously more economical, but until molecular population genetics became available recently, a lot of conservation efforts were hampered by the ignorance of the conservation biologists. They didn't have any means to know if the animals they were saving were genetically unique or not, or what their closest relatives were species-wise. Leave a comment. What's your opinion? Should we bring back extinct species, or should we try to prevent them from going extinct in the first place?


It would be awesome if they can pull it off and bring back the mammoth. Sounds like the movie Jurassic Park.

I don't see anything wrong in bringing back the extinct species...and for sure we need to keep trying to prevent animals and plants from going extinct.
Reviving extinct species might be very useful in the future. Let's start the practicing now.
"What's your opinion? Should we bring back extinct species, or should we try to prevent them from going extinct in the first place?"

How about a third choice: put the money and time into protecting a lot more general habitat?

But yeah, it would be irresistible to see extinct species walking around. In a few generations, though, they would be different. Taller, perhaps. Or 90 percent killed off by some virus and the rest now resistent. Or something.

And what effect would they have on ecosystems if released? Not that we have any (relatively) stable ecosystems anymore. (And what constitutes stable?)

Enjoyed the mammoth link, and the worm link (convergent evolution). Thanks.
I think the third choice is really a subset of preserving the species. Since the organism is part of the ecosystem, if you don't preserve the ecosystem/habitat, then the organism will eventually go extinct. Indeed, this is one of the ways organisms go extinct - loss of habitat through climate change or geologic process. Sticking an animal in a zoo is just a stop gap measure. You can't sustain a wild species through captive breeding. Eventually, it will either die off or become something else due to captivity selection pressures - wolves become dogs, wild foxes become dog-like domesticated foxes with piebald patterns.
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