Whether to recreate extinct species – recent opinions on Scientific American

If you do follow or have followed paleontology news in the past several years, you know that the question of recreating (or cloning) extinct species is part of the conversation.  I am not supporting these views; I add them out of interest.

Here is an opinion piece from the June 2013 edition of Scientific American:


“The idea of bringing back extinct species holds obvious gee-whiz appeal and a respite from a steady stream of grim news. Yet with limited intellectual bandwidth and financial resources to go around, de-extinction threatens to divert attention from the modern biodiversity crisis. According to a 2012 report from the International Union for Conservation of Nature, some 20,000 species are currently in grave danger of going extinct.”

(This piece echoes sentiments expressed by Dr. Roger Sloboda in 2012 when I questioned him: please see an earlier post below on this blog)

Here is the response to it in the September 2013 Special Issue of Scientific American from George Church, who champions recreating extinct species and synthetic biology:


Here are some of George Church’s ideas specific to mammoths:

“Mammoths could keep the region colder by: (a) eating dead grass, thus enabling the sun to reach spring grass, whose deep roots prevent erosion; (b) increasing reflected light by felling trees, which absorb sunlight; and (c) punching through insulating snow so that freezing air penetrates the soil. Poachers seem far less likely to target Arctic mammoths than African elephants.”

Here is what is written on the Pleistocene Park’s website. I highly recommend reading all that is written on this link (not just what I’ve highlighted): http://www.pleistocenepark.ru/en/background/

PLEASE NOTE: I am not saying that Church’s comments or opinions are in any way supported by or linked to this park.  I am merely making a connection on my own from what I’ve read.

“At the end of the Pleistocene, steppe ecosystems were the dominant ecosystems on the planet. In Europe, Northern Asia and Northern America the Mammoth steppe ecosystem dominated…Animal species varied from ecosystem to ecosystem, but the roles played by these different types of animals remained relatively constant. For an ecosystem to be sustainable it must have large heavy grazers, such elephants, ruminants such as cows and goats, predators suchs as wolves and tigers etc. Steppe ecosystems were extremely stable, since they developed over hundreds of thousands of years and survived several deep glaciations and warm periods similar to the Holocene…If we want to effect a reverse ecosystem shift, we need to artificially increase the number of animals in a limited area for a period of time sufficient for pasture development. Animals would trample all vegetation including shrubs trees and moss. By fertilizing the soil they would increase the rate of biogeochemical cycling. More nutrients would accumulate in the soil, allowing higher grass productivity. Higher transpiration would keep soils dry. Under continuous pasture pressure and fertilization, grasses would once again become the dominant vegetation, and in combination with various steppe animal species they would form a modern steppe ecosystem, which would be sustainable and ready to expand.”

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