Thursday, December 12, 2013

Resurrection Genetics, Girls Who Look Under Rocks and a Remedy for Stuck Babies

Finally I've gotten news that scientists in a position to actually do what I've been thinking about for some time, may be on the verge of actually trying.

And what might that be?

Resurrection Genetics.  

Could we go back and plug the holes in ecological systems in which we humans have caused the extinction of species?  

Should we?

Whether we should might just depend on what the species was?  Right?

 Is there really a place for the Wooly Mammoth in the 21st Century beyond a zoo?  I don't know and am very wary.  What kind of life is one in which an animal is not free? Besides there is also the Jurassic Park problem....

Just because we have the DNA, frozen Wooly Mammoths are periodically found in glaciers, doesn't necessarily mean we should bring them back, right?  At least right now...

BUT...what about the Passenger Pigeon?

The last confirmed sighting of a Passenger Pigeon was in 1900, after that there were only a few in zoos.  As many of you know, the last Passenger Pigeon was Martha, who lived in the Cincinnati Zoo and died in 1914.

When Martha died she was packed in a 300 pound block of ice and shipped to the Smithsonian Museum, where her skin was mounted, but the rest of her was preserved in the Smithsonian's "wet" collection.  Her DNA has been carefully preserved for low these many years.

For those who don't  know, the species,  Ectopistes migratorius, was shot into near extinction by market hunters putting them onto the tables of restaurants and into Eastern butcher shops.  But the last remnants are thought to have been extirpated by habitat loss. 

And as far as  I can find, Passenger Pigeons didn't really reproduce in captivity.  Well captivity then anyway.  It may just come down to the lack of room for a courtship flight, who knows?

Is there a place for the Passenger Pigeon in today's world?  

Could they survive?

Actually the newly resurrected Passenger Pigeon, would be extremely close to the original but strangely and I don't have exact details as to why, wouldn't be exact from what I understand.  The bulk of it's DNA, is identical to the Western Fan-tailed Pigeon, the Passenger Pigeons closest living relative.  The DNA of the Western Fan-tailed Pigeon which is supposedly identical to most of the Passenger Pigeons DNA would be used along with the DNA taken from Martha which of course is Passenger Pigeon DNA to produce the new living Passenger Pigeons.

I need to find out why, but back to the conundrum under discussion.

Earlier today I ran across a book online published in 1914 by the Princeton Press, the year Martha died, titled "Western Natural Resources, What They Are and How They Can Be Conserved".  

Back in 1914, it appears that any number of "game" species including the Fan-tailed Pigeon were on the verge of extinction due to hunting and habitat issues according to the above book. 

In it many species of animals which are doing just fine today, had been on the brink of extinction, not many years before the book was written. 

 These species are currently in large enough populations that they are no longer considered threatened.  Therefore is now, the near hundredth  year anniversary of Martha's death the time to bring her species back as well?

And by the way, it wouldn't be poof!  Passenger Pigeons!  It is thought the work would take numerous decades before it was completed.

What do you think?

I  ran across this book the other day.  

If you know any preteens or adolescents similar to the  girls the women who read this blog were, this book would be a tremendous holiday present.  

I wish I'd known about some of these women growing up.  

The six female naturalists highlighted are Maria Sybylla Merian, Anna Borsford Comstock, Frances Hamerstrom, Rachel Carson, Miriam Rothschild, and Jane Goodall.

This book is a dandy and though copyrighted in 2000, it still appears to be available through  the Dawn Press website.
Next up...not ordinarily anywhere near my topics, but I love the fact that an auto mechanic came up with a simple semi-low tech very practical way to extricate human babies stuck in the birth canal.

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