It’s becoming increasingly clear that at some point in the future, humanity will be able to bring back animals from extinction. The American public, ever since catching wind of this so-called process of “de-extinction”, have been loudly demanding the conversion of a National Park into a National Dinosaur Clone Park, populated with every single tyrannical beast they could think of.
Theoretically, this is possible, but a new ethics paper in the journal Functional Ecology has sadly served us all with a massive helping of disappointment. Although the international team of researchers are in favor of de-extinction for conservation-based reasons, they subtly recommend not bringing the non-avian dinosaurs back to life for irritatingly sensible reasons. Or, in other words, we shouldn't make a real-life Jurassic Park. Aww.
“The idea of de-extinction raises a fundamental and philosophical question: Are we doing it to create a zoo or recreate nature?” co-author Benjamin Halpern, director of the University of California Santa Barbara's (UCSB’s) National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis, said in a statement.
“Both are reasonable answers, but restoring species to a natural state will be a much, much harder endeavor. We offer guidelines for how to make ecological de-extinction more successful and how to avoid creating 'eco-zombies.'”
These guidelines are based around the feasibility of letting formerly extinct animals roam the world once again. There are three key points, with the first focusing on the realms of history that humanity should be allowed to mine with their genetic time machines.
The team declares that only recently extinct species should be resurrected, rather than those that disappeared thousands or millions of years ago. Those that recently bit the bullet will still likely have their original ecosystems and habitats relatively intact, and, hypothetically speaking, they will not find it difficult re-adapting to these environments.
So this means that we could see the reappearance of the Christmas Island pipistrelle bat or Réunion Island’s giant tortoise. That’s great, but this clause subtly rules out any sort of Tyrannosaurus rex plodding across the Earth.
As of 2016, there are only three Northern White Rhinoceroses left in the wild. Could de-extinction bring them back if the worst happens? Katt Webb/Shutterstock