Bringing extinct animals back to life was once considered something that would only happen in movies like Jurassic Park, but with new technology, some say it could happen within the next 20 years.
Recently, social media became flooded with stories about geneticist George Church who said he may be able to create a woolly mammoth embryo in two years. However, in an email to CBC News, Church said the stories were “exaggerated” and based on comments about “a project that was not on the agenda and not yet in a peer-reviewed paper.”
Church declined to discuss his research further, but the reports have reinvigorated discussions about the de-extinction of species.
“The inevitability is it will be feasible, but don’t know time frames,” McMaster University professor Hendrik Poinar told CBC News.
From discovery to debate
Poinar has been surrounded by de-extinction since the 1980s, when his father published research about insects embedded in amber that helped inspire Jurassic Park.
Poinar’s own research at McMaster led to the genome sequencing of extinct animals. In 2006, McMaster became the first university in Canada to have a sequencer that made the discovery of the genomic sequence of the woolly mammoth possible, he said.
The research and discussion around de-extinction has only grown from there.
He said it could happen within 10 years, but it’s more likely to happen 20 to 50 years from now.
As de-extinction becomes more likely to happen, the debate is less whether it can happen to whether it should.
One of the main arguments surrounding de-extinction is called a moral hazard, which is if recreating species will lead to further destruction.
Poinar said the point of de-extinction isn’t to bring species back and put them in a zoo, it’s meant to have ecological benefits.
He would like to see the technology used on species that went extinct more recently than the woolly mammoth. For example, Australian…