Resurrecting Extinct Animals: Just how far is modern science willing to go?

 

The 6th Mass Extinction: the fifth was when the large dinosaurs that roamed the earth were wiped out by a rather unforgiving asteroid. Mass extinction occurs when over 50% of the creatures on the planet become extinct; so it may be surprising for you to hear that many feel this is the path we are heading down.

But unfortunately it's true, a disconcerting amount of scientists believe we are already in the middle of an event that is moving faster than the K-T extinction which wiped out the dinosaurs. Instead of mass extinction being caused by an asteroid, this time there is a series of problems that include: rising CO2 levels, habitat destruction, invasive species, pollution, over-harvesting and an ever increasing human population.

What causes an animal to become extinct?

Animals become extinct as they struggle to adapt to the changes in their environment. These changes can include: climate, diseases, predators and competitors. According to fossil records, there are many species of animal that have become extinct over the billions of years Earth has been inhabited, but these days extinction seems to be the 'people's problem', caused by 'the people'. Humans compete with other animals for space, water and food and therefore we are actually very successful predators.

Cloning of extinct animals

In 2009, scientists managed to clone the Bucardo; a species of mountain goat that became extinct in 2000, by using a piece of fossilised skin. Personally, I found this incredibly exciting and liberating, but sadly the clone died shortly after birth - as clones often do. It did; however, provide scientists with hope that - with improved research and technology - cloning of extinct animals may actually be possible.

For an animal to be cloned successfully; there needs to be a direct ancestor that has a similar genetic make-up otherwise problems can occur in pregnancy.

On the contrary, it is impossible for creatures that became extinct millions of years ago like dinosaurs to be brought back to life with current science methods as there are no direct decedents in existence today – sadly it is genetically impossible.

Evolution

Evolution occurs over time by something known as natural selection – (a theory courtesy of our local man, Charles Darwin). The best adapted of the species produce the 'fittest' offspring, whilst the weaker members of the species die out. Furthermore, it is fossils that show creatures of the past were similar to creatures of today but with different characteristics – for example, whales used to walk on land before evolution led them to adapt to a marine lifestyle.