Spot on Science: De-Extinction

WHEN AN ANIMAL GOES EXTINCT IT MAY SEEM LIKE ALL HOPE IS LOST FOR ITS SPECIES. IT IS DEFINITELY A SAD DAY AND IT’S WHY WE REALLY NEED TO PAY ATTENTION TO ANIMALS ON THE ENDANGERED SPECIES LIST SO THEY DON’T END UP GONE AS WELL. BUT – AND IT’S A PRETTY BIG BUT – SCIENTISTS ARE TRYING TO BRING SOME OF THESE ANIMALS BACK TO LIFE. IT’S CALLED DE-EXTINCTION.

LET’S TAKE A LOOK AT SOME OF THE ANIMALS SCIENTISTS ARE TRYING TO REVIVE AND JUST HOW THEY ARE GOING ABOUT IT.

ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE PYRENEES MOUNTAINS LIVED A KIND OF TYPE OF GOAT CALLED THE BUCARDO,OR PYRENEAN IBEX. THE MALE BUCARDO HAD BIG HORNS THAT SWOOPED UP AND BACK WHILE THE FEMALES’ WERE MORE DAINTY. THEY FED OF GRASSES AND PLANTS. IN THE SUMMER THEY LIVED ON TOP OF THE MOUNTAINS AND IN THE WINTER THEY MOVED LOWER TO AVOID THE SNOW.

THERE USED TO BE PLENTY OF BUCARDOS BUT HUNTING AND HABITAT LOSS LED TO LESS AND LESS OF THEM. THEN IN 2000 THE VERY LAST BUCARDO, A FEMALE NAMED CELIA WAS CRUSHED BY A FALLEN TREE. SCIENTISTS HAD BEEN WATCHING HER, BUT THEY WANTED HER TO SPEND HER LIFE IN THE WILD.

A YEAR BEFORE SHE DIED THEY TOOK SOME SAMPLES OF HER DNA. THEN THEY ATTEMPTED TO USE IT TO CLONE HER. CLONING IS A WAY OF MAKING A TWIN OF ANOTHER ANIMAL BY USING ITS DNA. THEY USED A DIFFERENT GOAT SPECIES AS THE MOTHER, BUT UNFORTUNATELY THE ONE BABY BUCARDO THAT WAS BORN DID NOT SURVIVE.

CLONING IS ONE OF THE MOST ADVANCED WAYS TO TRY TO BRING BACK EXTINCT SPECIES AND IT HAS BEEN DONE WITH ALREADY LIVING ONES – MOST FAMOUSLY WITH DOLLY THE SHEEP. SHE WAS THE FIRST CLONE OF HER KIND MADE FROM THE DNA OF ANOTHER SHEEP IN 1996.

SCIENTISTS ARE TRYING TO USE CLONING TO BRING BACK OTHER EXTINCT ANIMALS LIKE THE GASTRIC BROODING FROG – WHICH BASICALLY BURBS OUT ITS BABIES.
FOR SOME EXTINCT ANIMALS WHERE THE SCIENTISTS DON’T HAVE VERY GOOD DNA SOURCES, THEY ARE TRYING TO CHANGE THE DNA OF EXISTING ANIMALS TO MAKE THEM MORE LIKE THOSE THAT HAVE GONE EXTINCT.

THIS IS WHAT SCIENTISTS ARE TRYING TO DO WITH THE PASSENGER PIGEON. AT ONE TIME IN HISTORY THESE BIRDS WERE SO ABUNDANT IN AMERICA THAT HUNTERS USED TO TRAP THOUSANDS AT A TIME. THEY WERE A MAJOR SOURCE OF FOOD FOR THE NATION. BUT TOO MUCH HUNTING LED TO THEIR EXTINCTION. IN 1914 THE LAST LIVING PASSENGER PIGEON, MARTHA, DIED IN THE CINCINNATI ZOO.

SCIENTISTS THINK THAT MAYBE BY TAKING THE FRAGMENTS OF DNA THAT THEY HAVE FROM THESE PIGEONS AND MIXING IT WITH THOSE OF MODERN DAY BIRDS THAT THEY MIGHT BE ABLE TO BRING BACK A BIRD VERY SIMILAR TO PASSENGER PIGEONS.

THIS IS THE SAME IDEA THAT THEY ARE TRYING TO DO WITH THE WOOLY MAMMOTH, ESSENTIALLY A BIG HAIRY ELEPHANT, AND THE DODO, A FUNNY LOOKING BIG BIRD THAT COULDN’T FLY -- OH AND THE TASMANIAN TIGER, AN UNUSUAL LOOKING ANIMAL THAT LIVED IN AUSTRALIA -- BUT THAT NO ONE EVER REALLY GOT TO STUDY BEFORE IT WAS KILLED OFF BY HUMANS.

IT’S NEAT TO THINK ABOUT WHAT OUR WORLD WOULD BE LIKE IF WE WERE ABLE TO BRING THESE ANIMALS BACK TO LIFE, BUT IN THE MEANTIME IT IS IMPORTANT FOR US TO TAKE CARE OF WHAT WE HAVE. AFTER ALL YOU CAN’T COUNT YOUR EGGS BEFORE THEY HATCH, EVEN IF THEY ARE FROM A DODO OR PASSENGER PIGEON!


Instructional Links


GIANT BEAVER

Website Article: Illinois State Museum, Explore the Midwest Ice Age, Giant Beaver

DUNKLEOSTEUS

Website Article: Cleveland Museum of Natural History, Dunkleosteus terrelli, Fierce Prehistoric Predator

BUCARDO

Website Article: BBC News, Fresh effort to clone extinct animal

PASSENGER PIGEON

Website Article: Chipper Woods Bird Observatory, Passenger Pigeon

Website Article & Video: National Geographic, De-Extinction, Bringing Extinct Species Back to Life | Includes pros & cons

Support Provided By

More Wcpn Schedule
More Wclv Schedule
Schedule
Donate
90.3 WCPN
WCLV Classical 104.9
NPR Hourly Newscast
The Latest News and Headlines from NPR
This text will be replaced with a player.
This text will be replaced with a player.
This text will be replaced with a player.