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Hello Woolly Mammoths?

Discussion in 'Wildlife & Nature Conservation' started by Loxodonta Cobra, 18 Feb 2017.

  1. Loxodonta Cobra

    Loxodonta Cobra Well-Known Member

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  2. d1am0ndback

    d1am0ndback Well-Known Member

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    I don't think it will work, or that we even should. Is their any use in resurrecting a mammoth? (Or mammoth elephant hybrid). Sounds like a waste of money that could be spent saving their modern relatives from extinction so that we don't have to resurrect them too.
     
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  3. overread

    overread Well-Known Member

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    Well whilst the mammoth might not be viable at present; the research itself would be. The capacity to bring back a species from such a tiny pool of genetic information and resources could pose an interesting possibility in restoration of other extinct or soon to be extinct species.

    There are already several massive plant spore/seed archives being built to protect plant species; if we could do the same for animals there's potential to off-set genetic and species diversity loss.

    Since human expansion and habitat loss are major components in extinction; and both are very hard and very slow to prevent; having the ability to at least protect species long-term and restore them at a later date would be a powerful tool to have.
     
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  4. Jurek7

    Jurek7 Well-Known Member

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    I read similar articles for two decades, but no real mammoth appeared so far.

    About the habitat destruction - woolly mammoth is one species which would find plenty of suitable habitat in the tundra. About the ethics: the real ethical answer is that there is no common ethical obligation allowing one outspoken ethical critic to supress research by other people.
     
  5. Giant Panda

    Giant Panda Well-Known Member

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    Yes, there is a use. Like today's elephants, mammoths were ecosystem engineers. Their (potential) ability to prevent methane release would make them more ecologically important than any elephant species.

    Palaeogenomics is remarkable, but DNA can only be recovered from recently extinct, cold-climate species. 700,000 years is the current record.

    This is being / has been done.

    But is tundra suitable mammoth habitat? The debate rages, but climate change and habitat loss probably played some role in their extinction. To take a present-day analogue, mortality rates at "Pleistocene Park" are exceptionally high, because the species introduced there (which abounded on mammoth steppe) aren't adapted to tundra. Even if we could overcome the technical barriers, and even if mammoths were released in Siberia, the outcome could still be a very expensive herd of dead Dumbos.
     
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  6. d1am0ndback

    d1am0ndback Well-Known Member

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    Yes but
    A. I don't even think the result will be a pure bred mammoth,

    B. There's a reason mammoths died out and cease to exist today,

    and C. It'd be more cost efficient to continue elephant protections (That are already turning the species around) and find other solutions than bank all our money into a system that is entirely hypothetical, and even then unlikely to work.
     
  7. Shellheart

    Shellheart Well-Known Member

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    The use would be,in my opinion,to prove that if such a massive feat of restoring the mammoth (kinda sorta) is possible,then that research can be applied to other species,particularly critically endangered or recently extinct species.
     
  8. Chlidonias

    Chlidonias Moderator Staff Member

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    A. Of course it won't be a pure-bred mammoth. The articles specifically say that. Did you read them?

    B. And that reason is what? I'm genuinely interested in what you think, and why your answer B is relevant to "bringing mammoths back".

    C. But the money being used isn't available for elephant conservation. It is money for the mammoth research. They don't just have a big pot of cash and say "hmm, elephant conservation or mammoths?" and then draw straws. It is available specifically for one purpose. It's like saying that a movie studio should have taken the $70 million dollars which it cost to make movie X and instead funded cancer research or something. That's not how the world works.
     
  9. overread

    overread Well-Known Member

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    When I did a course in paleoclimates and ecosystems one thing came up time and again; every single glacial to interglacial period had surviving mega-fauna. Creatures like giant sloths and woolly mammoths. The only one without such creatures is the current one we are presently in; that humanity also came to rise during this period is, I think, no coincidence.

    Of course climatic changes might also have happened as well, however the signal is more difficult to read there. Furthermore there could have been other complicating factors; but I think there is strong evidence it was humanity. We are, with technology, most effective hunters and also very single minded hunters. Furthermore unlike selective hunters, our omnivorous capacity means we can readily change to different food groups. Heck we are so good at it that within some cultures, the killing of prime species is done as a right of passage - a social gain - without there necessarily being any real benefit or resource from the hunt
     
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  10. Giant Panda

    Giant Panda Well-Known Member

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    ...is the same point that's been made since the 1960s. Fortunately, much better evidence is now available than a verbal argument based on a simplistic correlation (post hoc ergo propter hoc and all that). I'm no expert, but I have read a fair bit of the academic literature and its a mixed picture. For some species, hunting pressure is indeed the most parsimonious model; for others, it's climate change; often, both probably played a role. My understanding is that mammoths fall into the latter category.
     
  11. overread

    overread Well-Known Member

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    The climate change always did result in extinctions, however in the past animals were also far more freely able to move and the only barriers were natural barriers. Today many paths are simply not possible; you've got boarders that are hard barriers against easy migration and even when you've not got that the land use changes provide new barriers. Roads and cities are huge barriers against the mobility of wildlife - heck even a break in the landscape from woodland/grassland into arable farming can be a huge barrier.

    So yes some hunting; some human/animal interactions; migration shutdown and a myriad of other elements. There were certainly natural extinctions, but I think the loss of nearly all mega-fauna in one big sweeping hit is likely human induced (or at least exacerbated).
     
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  12. Pleistohorse

    Pleistohorse Well-Known Member

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    Yep. This Island Earth...literally.

    I seriously never expect this to happen, but wouldn't grasslands and mixed forests in drier parts (with regards to snowfall) of the northern hemisphere provide suitable habitat?

    I'm thinking parts of Central Asia, Mongolia, Tibet, southern Canada, Montana, the Dakotas... Maybe southwest Alaska. Certain Arctic and Sub-Arctic Islands.

    I personally don't see any eithical delimma in restoring any species (or suitable surrogate) that went extinct during the Holocene, late Pleistocene.

    I believe we will either wreck the Earth (like a slow moving extraterrestrial impact extinction event) or eventually achieve a certain high-tech post-Anthropecene utopia. If the latter...this technology is critical. If the former...well does it matter? Except that the effort alone may be futile...but the gesture an important element in Nature's Last Stand.
     
  13. overread

    overread Well-Known Member

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    Nature has more chance of survival overall; granted in the short term its a huge loss of species; but in the long term its been shown time and again that life can restore to a state of high diversity. Of course there are a few ways in which life could get stopped; the use of all nuclear weaponary could blast the world into an irradiated state where only very short lived microbes could survive. Which might well put evolution back so far as to either never advance to higher life forms* or to be put back billions of years.

    I like to think that humanity will not be so short sighted as to actually perform such an action; though it might be many generations before such weapons are dismantled for good.

    Heck the short term effect of the use of nuclear weapons can be a bonus to wildlife; since most species are short lived and thus can survive in areas of radiation; whilst humans can't. As a result Chernoble is an ideal example of the good that can result. Of course this is an extreme example and not an ideal path one should aim for.

    *Interestingly evolution seems to always seek toward ever more complex systems.
     
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  14. d1am0ndback

    d1am0ndback Well-Known Member

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    I see your point but I struggle to see the function of an animal that won't even be pure bred mammoth, or any other extinct species for that matter. An endangered species can benefit from this, but I don't see why they don't focus on that rather than something that I personally don't believe will be pulled off.
     
  15. d1am0ndback

    d1am0ndback Well-Known Member

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    I see what you are saying. My point was if humans were the ones to eliminate the mammoths, then it's a high likely hood that the reintroduced ones would be targeted (Probably unlikely) and or find their habitat destroyed by development.

    This seems like a very ambitious and expensive experiment in a field of science that hasn't worked before and I am just very skeptical of the chances of success resulting from it.
     
  16. overread

    overread Well-Known Member

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    I wonder how much of the money going into this would otherwise go into conservation effort or research if it wasn't going into Mammoth research.

    Many times people complain of the improper use of money, but its important to know the source too. It could well be that this is the best use of this money for conservation as otherwise it would be directed into other DNA projects that might have no benefit for conservation in general.
     
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  17. Chlidonias

    Chlidonias Moderator Staff Member

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    but if that's your argument then there's no point putting money into elephant conservation either, because the reason they are in trouble is because of hunting and loss of habitat. Why put more money into trying to save them when they are still going to be poached and their habitat is still going to be lost?
     
  18. d1am0ndback

    d1am0ndback Well-Known Member

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    I guess you're right, but are we THAT confident in the practices being used today that the offspring will even survive? I may be proven wrong if/when they succeed, but as of now cloning is very iffy in success, since the DNA stays the same age as what it came from, which is why Dolly the sheep died prematurely. If it barely worked for Dolly the sheep, and not for long enough, what makes them think it will work for a species that's been long extinct. Is there some new cloning technique out there?

    Furthermore they are choosing not to use a surrogate mother, which makes it significantly more difficult, and less likely to succeed. And once they do get a "mammoth", what will teach it to be a mammoth? You can't just dump them into the wilderness and expect them to know in their DNA how to survive. Figuring out how to do that seems like the next big challenge for them, and that is why I'm so skeptical about this whole experiment.

    My views on the budget may have been wrong (Thank you for correcting me there that changed my view on this experiment), but I still don't see much reason in this experiment that his highly hypothetical, when they could do the same thing with an endangered species to get similar results (Finding we can bring species on the verge of extinction with this new technique), just without mammoths and releasing them into the wild. Is there another benefit I'm missing?
     
  19. Vision

    Vision Well-Known Member

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    I'm sure a lot of it will just be a personal thing. As a biologist or team of biologists, you'd earn a lot more respect and impress a lot more people if you succeed in cloning a mammoth "from scratch" for the first time, than you would by cloning a "regular" elephant using a surrogate mother.

    If the funding is there, and the interest is there, why not at least attempt to make a scientific breakthrough? No matter how useless this specific job might seem, there's always something to learn from it.
     
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  20. Coelacanth18

    Coelacanth18 Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    d1am0ndback brings up a good point here, I think. Mammoths were highly social creatures like modern-day elephants, and so it seems reasonable that much of their behavior and adaptability was learned rather than instinctual. How can one replicate that? Even if you eventually succeed in back-crossing cloned mammoths to the point of being almost genetically identical, they will still won't be mammoths in the truest sense. There is more to organisms than what is programmed into their genes; the social behavior and (dare I say) culture of wild mammoths is irretrievable and cannot be resurrected.
     
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