Bringing back extinct animals

My instinct is that these experiments are gratuitous. Furthermore there are serious risks.

I am even against the re-introduction of species that have been extirpated in a particular area. One might be sad about the extirpation, but what’s the urgent need to reverse it?

I don’t like it being used for subspecies either because it feels worthless. Wouldn’t any regular Seaside Sparrow, for example, be able to fill the niche of DSS? Wouldn’t those sparrows, over time, just naturally grow to resemble the DSS?

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I certainly wouldn’t automatically assume that all subspecies would fill the same ecological niche. For example, the Cape Sable Seaside Sparrow occurs in freshwater marshes, not the saltwater marshes that Dusky Seaside Sparrows once inhabited. Obviously that’s the most extreme case with the given species, but all the subspecies are likely to have some differences in their precise niche, even if there is a fair amount of overlap.

Maybe over the course of 250,000–500,000 years if using the closest related subspecies, but even then, it’s much more nuanced than that with no guarantees. Especially considering the closest related subspecies has also been diverging in its own direction since the “point of last contact”.

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If there is space for any re-introduced megafauna, surely it’s in Siberia? Meanwhile there are ongoing efforts to reintroduce bison and wolves to mainland Europe.
I think we undervalue the huge role that megafauna have in their ecosystems, and how drastic the changes are when they’re gone.


I agree it would be a better idea for Colossal to put their money towards animal protection and habitat restoration. The problem I have with cloning animals is the use of surrogates - these animals are not living a natural life in their natural habitat. They are part of a science experiment to feed someone’s agenda (ego).


I had the same concern:


I mean we’ve seen with the Wolves in Yellowstone that re-introductions can have huge positive effects on the area. Re-introduction of species to extripated areas would also help stop the fragmentation of a species population, and could also help the ecosystem, which they are a part of to become like it once was. The only thing with re-introductions is that they need to make sure its the right subspecies (unlike in India where they reintroduced African Cheetahs instead of the endangered Asiatic Cheetah).


Because so many spp. went extinct NOT because they were maladapted, but because of human slaughter or human environmental and/or biophysical/biochemical intervention, having a repository of their genetic code and germplasm is a great idea. If anyone survives the mass Homo “sapiens” mass extinction during this anthropocene era, they may need it to restore a thriving biosphere. No plants = no oxygen, folks.

Iirc the main difference between the Dusky Seaside Sparrow and the rest was that the Dusky had a higher degree of melanin, a gene which could have carried on to some degree if they let Orange Band mate with another Seaside sparrow of any subspecies. So I don’t think they would naturally grow to become like the Dusky. But we have seen iterative evolution before with the Aldabra Rail.

The main visible difference. One mutated gene doesn’t make a whole subspecies. The DSS had other unique genetic, morphological, and behavioral differences as well. Through gene editing, it would be relatively simple to make a darker seaside sparrow, but that doesn’t recreate the DSS.


What I meant was that because of the mutation, it was unlikely that seaside sparrows of other subspecies could naturally through iterative evolution start to look like the Dusky. Obviously if there were no genetic differences it would be considered a morph and not a subspecies.

But even then I’ve been reading a little bit more about the genome editing process and it seems that it’s result could be more authentic then I previously thought, potentially being able to create a genetically pure offspring.
Take for instance the Maclear’s Rat. A species of rat native to Christmas Island which went extinct under unclear circumstances probably related to the introduction of Black Rats to the island. It shares 95% of its genes with the Brown Rat, and scientists were able to do pretty well using CRISPR to edit the two together except that there were a few Maclear’s Rat genes missing, meaning that they could never make a 100% authentic Maclear’s Rat.
A lot of the animals that people want to bring back from extinction are like this, we don’t have enough soft tissue and other things from which DNA can be extracted to bring them back. But the Dusky Seaside Sparrow only went extinct in the late 80s (compared to the Maclear’s Rats extinction date of 1903) and would probably (?) be easier to create since it’s only a subspecies. Even behaviour can be learned as we’ve seen with captive bred California Condor. The main issue (if somehow they manage to create a genetically pure Dusky which would probably never happen anyway) would be reproduction, and the functionality of the population, which would make their reintroduction into the wild and the establishment of a stable population impossible.

Now IF somehow scientists were able to edit some seaside sparrows DNA and manage to make a genetically authentic and pure Dusky Seaside Sparrow, successfully have it adapt to its environment, and somehow have a stable and functional population, then I see no issue with them doing so. But that’s really really unlikely. Also keep in mind with everything I say that I am not a scientist and only have a surface level understanding of genetics.

I’m not saying they should do this (honestly any genetic meddling with nature should be discouraged) but I am saying that it might now be impossible. They might be able recreate the Dusky Seaside Sparrow if everything were to work out just right (no missing DSS genes or other potential issues).

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My concern is not so much about restoring an extinct species, but endangering existing ones. In particular, ones that are perched on extinction due to habitat loss caused by human expansion.

Why? We have a terrible tendency to apply strong optimism bias to decisions whenever new technology is introduced. Our farm expansion is threatening a threatened animal or plant? No problem.

“Well, If we overdo the development expansion and wipe them out, we’ll just use this new ‘restore’ trick everyone is talking about and bring them back… someday. Done!”

You know this is how many people think.

As for really old reintroductions (ala Jurassic Park fantasy time) the real question is, how do you reintroduce a species that existed in a time where so much of the environment that supported it originally is also extinct? And how much more susceptible would it be to attacks by contemporary pathogens?


Contemporary pathogens might not even know what to do with it, if they are adapted to contemporary species.

But that is only true if the habitat is restored while we are still here to work with that repository. If we go – or even if we survive but our technological civilization goes – that germplasm will die in its test tubes and be well and truly extinct.

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I’ve got the same concern as you…

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I’d love to have them back: the mammoth in Siberia, the Tasmanian tiger in Tassie (and/or mainland Australia). These animals mainly got extinct due to hunting by humans; and the Tasmanian tiger also due to dog and dingo (the latter never reached Tasmania, hence its survival there until recent times as opposed to mainland Australia). Habitat loss or degradation did have a knock-on effect. I believe conservation biology has advanced enough, to allow their effective management and conservation once they would be back. I believe their benefits to the ecosystem, if revived, would outweigh the risks. For the Tasmanian tiger to survive, effective introduced feral predator management would be needed. Mammoths survived for millions of years on 4 continents (Europe, Africa, Asia and North America) - surviving multiple glacials and interglacials - and only got extinct once hunted out effectively by Homo sapiens, who became ever more effective at hunting big game - and at switching to a different species to hunt, once the previous one had become rare or extinct. Potential habitat for mammoth would not be restricted to Siberia, could also include e.g. northern North America.
It goes without saying that conservation action of presently endangered species - and their habitat, and invasive species management - should not be hampered significantly by any ‘species revival’ efforts.
Overall, I agree it is a subject where many people would have different views - in favour or against - just as it is the case with the views about the hippos in Colombia.