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Are we Ready for a Real-Life Jurassic Park Via De-extinction? [VIDEO]

Mar 15, 2013 08:46 PM EDT
In the Royal BC Museum in Victoria (Canada). The display is from 1979, and the fur is musk ox hair.

(Photo : Wikimedia Commons)

Once extinct animals, like the woolly mammoth, passenger pigeon and western black rhino, can be brought back to life via genetic engineering. This topic has caused some debate among the scientific community as to whether they should and what are the moral implications related to that.

 TEDxDeExtinction, a public forum where speakers came to share their views on the matter, met at National Geographic's Washington headquarters today to discuss this issue.

Since de-extinction is now a scientific possibility, it opens up a whole new dialogue as to whether we should resurrect these species and better yet, what do we do with them once they're here? Can they live in the wild with today's animals? How will it affect the natural balance of our ecosystem?

Stuart Pimm of Duke University argued in an opinion piece in National Geographic that these efforts would be a "colossal waste" if scientists don't know where to put revived species that had been driven off the planet because their habitats became unsafe.

"A resurrected Pyrenean ibex will need a safe home," Pimm wrote. "Those of us who attempt to reintroduce zoo-bred species that have gone extinct in the wild have one question at the top of our list: Where do we put them? Hunters ate this wild goat to extinction. Reintroduce a resurrected ibex to the area where it belongs and it will become the most expensive cabrito ever eaten."

 An organization called Revive and Restore is enlisting the support of preeminent scientists to investigate the possibility of de-extinction. Should scientists get the go-ahead for de-extintion, what is the process like?

Long Now Foundation, a San Francisco-based non-profit explains it on their website:

"There are at least three semi-successful techniques for de-extinction so far. 1) Selective back-breeding of existing descendents to recreate a primordial ancestor is being used for the revival of the European Aurochs, among others. 2) Cloning with cells from cryopreserved tissue of a recently extinct animal can generate viable eggs. If the eggs are implanted in a closely related surrogate mother, some pregnancies produce living offspring of the extinct species. 3) Allele replacement for precisely hybridizing a living species with an extinct species is the new genome-editing technique developed by George Church. If the technique proves successful (such as with the passenger pigeon), it might be applied to the many other extinct species that have left their "ancient DNA" in museum specimens and fossils up to 200,000 years old."

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