Nina In New York: Scientists Explore ‘De-Extinction.’ Wait, What?
A lighthearted look at news, events, culture and everyday life in New York.
By Nina Pajak
Do you ever watch Jurassic Park and think, “Gosh, this stuff makes sense! I believe in dino DNA, talking helix. I do, I really do!”
Yeah, me neither. I definitely totally understand why reviving dinosaurs could never be possible using the
brilliant logic fictional concept of extracting blood from fossilized mosquitoes. I obviously never tried to acquire a piece of amber which harbored a mosquito which may have bitten a brontosaurus lo these many years. Pssht. What kind of doofus-nerd hybrid would do such a thing?
Everyone knows that dino DNA is simply too old to be used productively.
Now, give me some Woolly Mammoth DNA and we can talk. Oh, wait. Someone already started.
At a recent conference held by National Geographic and TedX, scientists proposed the “de-extinction” of 24 erstwhile species of animal. In addition to the ever-popular Mammoth, candidates included the dodo, the Quagga (a type of zebra), the moa (a 12-foot tall flightless bird), the passenger pigeon (please, no), a bunch of other birds (why so many birds, anyway?), the saber-toothed cat, and the mastodon. More here.
Before you haul off and go collecting millenia-old blood samples for cloning, consider some of the drawbacks explored at the conference:
Some of these animals were never meant to survive, and probably would just die out all over again. Seriously, what is wrong with all these birds? Didn’t they used to be dinosaurs, basically? Can’t they take to the skies and evade death a little more aptly?
Some of these animals were total jerkazoids and would make terrible pets.
How do you raise a moa to be a real moa in a currently moa-less world? More moas, moa problems. Yeah. I went there.
How much will this all cost, will the DNA samples be adequate, and also wha? Why? If the answer is “why not?” we may have a priorities problem.
Here are my votes for animals I’d like to see reanimated or de-extincted or whatever.
Pro: I’ve heard so much about him! I’d love to meet the guy. Plus, they’ve got silly heads. Also, while many thought they were dumb, they were in fact simply fearless as a result of having no natural predators until butthead humans came along and killed them all.
Con: Gone will be the phrase, “it went the way of the dodo.” We can always just replace “dodo” with “quagga,” though.
Smilodon (Saber-toothed cat)
Pro: Cool factor is high, as is historical curiosity factor. The last one died 10,000 years ago! We can ask them about all sorts of stuff, like the Ice Age and what it was like to be Fred Flinstone’s pet. Its name also lends itself to lots of terrible dad jokes for generations to come.
Con: “Smilodon was a large, muscular predator that may well have snacked on early humans . . . Smilodon would leap on its prey suddenly from the high branches of trees, digging its huge incisors into the unfortunate animal’s neck and then withdrawing to a safe distance while its dinner bled to death.”
Pro: Similar to the Smilodon, bringing back the woolly mammoth would just be totally rad. Aside from sharks, which as we all know are living dinosaur sea monsters from millions of years ago that evaded extinction, having woolly mammoths roaming the Serengeti would be as close as we could come to feeling like history has come alive.
Con: They could give elephants an inferiority complex. Also, terrible opportunities for tasteless promotions with the Ice Age movie franchise.
Pro: A 12-foot tall flightless bird? Come on. Plus they died out due to over-hunting by the Maori, so it really wasn’t their fault. They deserve a second chance.
Con: “Tragedy and chaos reign at the county fair petting zoo. More at eleven.”