Breeding back - return of phenotype

“Breeding-back” aims to restore or immitate extinct animals by selective breeding. Most popular example is a Quagga Project. Quagga project trying to create Equus quagga burchellii which looks like extinct Equus quagga quagga. Should these animals not have stripes to introduce the Equus quagga in the Cape Town area? For me it is a bit strange, I am curious about your opinion, in particular that there are some people on the forum from around Cape Town where, according to Wikipedia, new quaggas will be introduce.

Second example is an Tauros Programme. Creating a cattle race that looks like wild form of Bos primigenius. And we know how they look thanks to paints and literature (no photos). Long term goal is a reintroduction of these cattle to rewilding european areas. Sounds great but, why they should look like their antcestors in modern times. Will natural selection create a wild form of free domestic cattle anyway?

Why ancient phenotypes are needed? What do you think about it?

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They are mere imitations and we should focus conservation efforts one species that are endangered.

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Because with phenotype often come behaviour patterns, modern cows can’t live without humans with constantly secreting milk, so creating a form more adapted to conditions of forests, also having capabilities of eating as much and same types of vegetation as anestors is very valuable, as our forests really lack megafauna right now. With quagga it’s far less functional as species still exists in the wild.

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You’re right that dairy cows can’t go wild. Some beef breeds can, though. Longhorn cattle can do well in the wild, in mild climates (in Texas, but not in Idaho).

I personally think we should spend our time and resources preserving what we have rather than trying to bring back organisms that are gone. However, it could be a good hobby for some people, I suppose.

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Well, our forests are not in the needed state as there’re just no big plant-eating animals, all what is left here is moose and some other deer, while just a couple centuies ago there were other species, which did affect how the growth was going, so you can imagine many plant species need them to create more open spaces. Texas is a really southern region. Cows still need longer legs, etc. to live there with bigger comfort.

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I was just talking about the fact that some cattle (not all) can successfully go wild. You’re right that many areas, including your forests, are in an unbalanced state due to the extinction of so many large mammals. I’m not confident that “breeding back” to wild types is an effective solution to this problem, but perhaps it is.

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Just a comment re. “modern cows” and their ability to live feral… Milk cow breed females may be hampered in the way you mention by what purposeful breeding has done… although if they were allowed to suckle their young normally and to produce milk only for their young, it may well be lessened. Beef cattle breeds aren’t hampered by this.

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Yes, that’s what @sedgequeen said and I know it too, just answering the op question and describing why the work should be done, it’s not the only reason.

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we should focus conservation efforts one species that are endangered

I’m not confident that “breeding back” to wild types is an effective solution to this problem

I also think that.

Feral cattle populations even live on some islands and in America and Australia, but usually in dry, warm climates.
@marina_gorbunova Auroch like cattle isn’t introduced to forests as far as i know (National parks in Netherlands and Spain with open areas), but don’t know why. By the way not only deer and moose, you forgot about small populations of wisent (and wisent-bison hybrids in Adygea) small, but still existing, with hope to a better future ;-).

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I didn’t mention them as they’re not found here anymore, to add, wood bison is introduced to replace steppe bison, though I would vote for adding wild horses populations to areas where no domestic horses stay now, though it’s also a very complicated thing to do and plan (proven by how Przewalski’s horse constantly die or are eaten by wolves in reintroduction programms).

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It’s an interesting concept, but breeding modern animals or plants to resemble ones in the past is just that. There is no guarantee that they will behave like the extinct animals. And, at least for me, sub-species are just an isolated group of the main species. It would be better to introduce the current species and see what happens. Only my opinion!

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I am in Cape Town. My personal opinion of the quagga project is that the investment could be much better used for nature and conservation.

About cattle, we already have nguni.

The Gantouw Project uses (true species) eland to browse invasive shrubs.

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I see a lot of comments along the lines of “funds could be better used for conservation purposes.”

Projects like these are not an either/or situation. Both can be done, and often funds are available for one project and not another based on the desires and needs of the funding organizations.

Often projects like these, as well as the cloning of ancient animal projects that people have been working on, go hand-in-hand with existing conservation work. Take the northern white rhinoceros, for example. This is an animal that is functionally extinct, but that happened very recently. No conservation protice in the world will save this species at this point, as there are only 2 individuals left and both are female.

Projects like the back breeding and cloning projects are now the only ways there are that have any chance of restoring this species, or one that occupies the same ecological niche and exhibits the same behaviors.

The issue isn’t the funds available, these projects don’t take any funds away from conservation work, and they often bring greater attention to conservation work. In addition, the knowledge gained via projects like this has direct conservation benefits as they increase our understanding of complex and poorly understood issues surrounding species, breeding, minimum viable population sizes, etc, etc/

The bigger issue is what we do with the animals that come from these types of projects. Releasing them into the wild is fraught with all sorts of problems (hybridization with existing species, inability to adapt, unforseen ecosystem impacts, zoonotic disease transfers, etc, etc, etc), so even if the projects are successful it’s probably best to keep them contained, which then essentially results in another domestic, or partially domestic, breed, or something like a show animal.

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For all the media coverage of the northern white rhinoceros as a doomed “species,” it is, in fact, a subspecies; there is also the southern white rhinoceros. But it goes to show that an extinct subspecies can be missed and mourned, too. I know that for me, what really made extinction real for me was the dusky seaside sparrow. Now, that, too, was a subspecies – the nominate subspecies of seaside sparrow still lives, and so does the Cape Sable seaside sparrow. But knowing that does not take away my grief over the dusky seaside sparrow.

So let’s not be too judgmental about the quagga project. Remember that the quagga was only posthumously recognized as being the same species as Burchell’s zebra; at the time of its extinction, it was considered a species in itself, with all that implies for human grief and mourning.

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It’s worth noting that whether something is counted as a species or a subspecies often changes over time, so just because something is counted as one or the other right now doesn’t mean that later work won’t result in a status change.

The primate species much of my work is focused on was, until recently, the type species of two subspecies, which have since been split into two separate species.

How we define what constitutes a species does not have universal agreement, and changes depending on the trends of the times and the research methods, and the criteria deemed relevant.

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One day - herds of quagga roaming the Karoo again? I wonder

https://www.quaggaproject.org/

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You are wrong, dairy cows can go wild but naturally it is better to use more hardy types for rewilding. Best example of dairy cows gone wild comes from Tjernobyl: https://www.reddit.com/r/megafaunarewilding/comments/lar637/feral_cows_in_chernobyl_began_to_behave_like_wild/

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Haha. Life finds a way!

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Is that a dairy breed? Their heavy muscling makes them look very much like cattle types bred for meat.

They were regular village cows, so used for milk, young bulls would get slaughtered for meat, but they don’t produce as much milk as breeds that are used in mass milk production.
Here’s an article with a domestic milk cow, looks kinda similar to feral ones. https://lenta.ru/articles/2016/04/26/chernobil1/

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