The State of the Art of De-Extinction

Generally a subject that I’ve not commented on . . .  nor given much thought about it as a credible consideration where the extinct Alvord cutthroat trout are concerned . . .

Yet times and technology are continually changing.  New thought processes are under foot; processes being pursued as potential solutions for the dilemma of the extinctions currently transpiring for so many species across the globe.


The purpose of this post is not to comment on the “morality” or potential ramifications of these new processes under consideration (and in some cases actually in a state of infancy; where scientists are implementing cloning technologies in the effort to ‘resurrect’ species).

But it has become quite evident that environmentalists and natural life enthusiasts should be informed about what has been transitioning from the realm of science fiction; to reality. 

Many of us have heard of the effort to clone and thereby ‘resurrect’ the Woolly Mammoth. National Geographic dedicated one of their issues to “Reviving Extinct Species,” and their site sports a review of these efforts and processes, and the debates surrounding them . . .


Ted has also sponsored events — and has produced numerous videos revolving around the concepts of de-extinction, and the technologies (being and/or to-be) utilized in the effort to accomplish this incredible goal.


An Australian project called the Lazarus Project is focused on the extinction of amphibians, and has successfully achieved cellular division and replication of “dead” DNA from extinct frogs . . .  And this has evidently given scientists additional genetic material to work with in the pursuit of the “resurrection” of an extinct species that swallows its eggs, allowing them to brood in its stomach and it then gives “birth” through its mouth:


. . . Truly, the stuff of what would have only been considered science fiction just a few short years ago — but what could perhaps become ‘commonplace’ if time goes on just a few more short years.


The challenges that are faced with the Alvord cutthroat trout are complicated by the fact that the only known pure DNA was preserved with formaldehyde before it was preserved with ethanol, and that these samples are now eighty years old.

And yet, there are countless “old fashioned,” tried and true methodologies that we should not give up on.  “Resurrecting” the phenotype may also have the benefit of concentrating the DNA of this extinct species in a remnant population.  And the fact that new methods of identifying and analyzing DNA are continually being developed and perfected may, in time, make it simple to confirm or perpetuate the genetic standing of currently extinct species of desert cutthroat trout

If nothing less; these processes may reveal more complete genetic sequencing for species that are now considered extinct; meaning greater understanding of their baseline and any prospect for re-breeding, ‘resurrecting,’ or simply finding a remnant of such extinct trout.

The news and science is very interesting.  But this authorfor onehopes that we will not give up on the prospect of utilizing what we have, or continuing the effort to find remnant populations of “extinct” trout that we may not be aware of.  As many articles can be found each year—about species that were thought to have been extinct, yet were just unknown.

© Kortum of Discovery   April 2014

About kortumofdiscovery

Kortum of Discovery (a slight play on Lewis & Clark's Corps of Discovery) is a family team that is Affirming the Exceptional Beauty of Nature, one Adventure at a Time. With a focus toward rare and endangered species in the Great Basin and American west: discoveries, unique methodologies, and many “tall tales to tell” are continually being shared around the campfire!
This entry was posted in Fisheries Biology and Genetics, Of Fauna and Flora. Bookmark the permalink.

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