What is humanity’s impact on the planet and how consciously and inadvertently have we caused the demise of many species? As a response, key organizations are stepping up by developing new strategies for animal conservation and attempting to resurrect species that are already extinct.
From modern networked camera traps that use digital cameras connected to infrared sensors, to acoustic sensors used for estimating species occupancy and population density, to LIDAR remote sensing of vegetation structure and habitat quality - conservationists have more powerful tools at their disposal to monitor and collect data that supports best practices for conservation.
Reverse Engineering Animals
Back-breeding involves finding living species that have traits similar to the extinct species then selectively breeding them to try to make a version that more closely resembles the extinct animal. Such a process is already underway for a species known as the aurochs, a wild ancestor of today’s modern cattle that went extinct in 1627.
A Return Of The Passenger Pigeon?
Scientists want to resurrect this bird by using the genes of the Band-Tailed Pigeon, which is a 97% genome match. They guesstimate that the differences between the birds are about 100 mutations apart. To be successful, they must pinpoint the correct mutations and then successfully grow a hybrid cell in a surrogate bird, to term. Even then, these hybrid birds would need to mate successfully in order to grow the breed.
Tampering With Earth’s Ecosystems
Reintroducing a species to a habitat always comes with some risk, such as when the poisonous Cane Toad was re-introduced to Australia to help control the grey-backed cane beetles that were damaging sugar crops, but which spread the toads across the continent, depleting native toad populations. However, examples of success, such as wolves being reintroduced into Yellowstone National Park and beavers being repopulated in the UK indicate that if done right, positive outcomes can be achieved.
Creating Species Hybrids For Planet Off Planet Survival
As humanity explores off-planet exploration and the potential for survival beyond our planet, will we use today’s experiments to lead the way to future experiments that will create more resilient species that will ensure the longevity of life as we know it?