Numbers don’t lie, and according to research studies, a total of 100 million different species roamed the Earth at any one time. This number includes mammals, reptiles, and amphibians. But the problem lies with how fast the species are disappearing. So how often does a species go extinct? Between 10,000 to 100,000 each year. Some quarters have even narrowed it to about 150 to 200 species every 24 hours.
Now that is a huge problem we are facing considering that less than 500,000 years ago the planet was packed with magnificent creatures such as the saber-toothed tiger.
There are now efforts by scientists to bring back some of those species for different reasons, and plans are in high gear to bring extinct animals back into our world.
‘It’s Aliiiive’! Species about to be revived
Plans are at an advanced stage to bring back the wooly mammoth, which is a relative of the elephant. The wooly mammoth roamed the Arctic and became extinct about 3,600 years ago and the passenger pigeon disappeared around the year 1900. It was a small gray bird with a pinkish-red breast that was found in North America. Scientists are optimistic that it is just a matter of time that these two species will get a second chance.
Reasons for resurrecting already extinct animals
According to ecologist Ben Novak, who is the lead researcher on the passenger pigeon project at Revive and Restore San Francisco, any species brought back should be for the sole purpose of environmental reasons.
“If this is always going to be a zoo animal, then stop. The goals have to be about environmental restoration and function.” He reiterates.
Each and every animal had an ecosystem function, and once the extinct species disappeared, their habitats changed as well, for the worse.
The mammoth was crucial for the ecosystem
George Church who is heading the mammoth de-extinction from Harvard University says that since the mammoth disappeared, the Arctic has never been the same. Being herbivores, the Arctic had grasslands, and they disappeared with them.
They used to knock down trees and scatter seeds with their dung. Now the Arctic’s ecosystem consists of mossy tundra and taiga which is in the process of melting down and releasing harmful carbon into the atmosphere in the process. Bringing back the mammoth, according to Church, will slow down climate change.
“There’s twice as much carbon at risk in the tundra than in all the forests of the world put together,” Church observes.
The passenger pigeon, also had numerous benefits to forests, which changed after the bird’s extinction.
The process of de-extinction
Scientists plan to de-extinct the animals through three primary methods:
- Back breeding; this involves finding closely related species of the extinct animals and then selectively breed them to bring forth a species very close to the extinct one.
- Cloning; This involves extracting the nucleus of a recently extinct animal, and then injecting the core into the embryo of a living host closely related to the extinct species, to have a surrogate to carry the fetus to term.
- Genetic Engineering; Researchers, would take the genome of an extinct animal and thread it together with the closest living relative of the extinct animal. They would then hope that the offspring will have the same traits as the extinct animal.
As long as the de-extinction of animals happens for the sole purpose of reducing climate change, and not for personal gain, we see this as a huge positive and benefit to our world.