This post is part of KQED’s Do Now U project. Do Now U is a biweekly activity for students and the public to engage and respond to current issues using social media. Do Now U aims to build civic engagement and digital literacy for learners of all ages. This post was written by Justine Stewart, Ryan Kirchner, Justin Marquez and Jenna Molesko, students in Melanie Lenahan’s General Biology class at Raritan Valley Community College.


Featured Media Resource
VIDEO: NBC News

Scientist Tries To Bring The Woolly Mammoth Back From The Dead
A Harvard scientist discusses the possibility of reviving extinct species, and the impacts that could have on our planet and on science as we know it.


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Should we bring back extinct species? #DoNowURevive


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Learn More About De-Extinction

For many Jurassic Park fanatics, seeing dinosaurs roam the Earth again would be a dream come true. But what if modern science could make that dream a reality? While dinosaur resurrection may not be in our immediate future, scientists are currently exploring the revival of more recently extinct species. There are a few different methods being investigated for “de-extinction,” but all pose the same questions: Is it worth the time and the money to bring extinct species back? Is it our moral obligation to bring back extinct species that have died off as a result of human activities like deforestation? What would be the implications?

Some scientists say revival of ancient species like the woolly mammoth could help repopulate the barren tundra, creating a thriving ecosystem and reducing the magnitude of climate change.

Supporters of de-extinction say that it could improve the environment. Scientist Sergey Zimov believes that by splicing woolly mammoth DNA into a close relative of the species, we could create a hybrid creature similar to the woolly mammoth to reintroduce to the tundra. This could repopulate the area, encouraging the revival of ancient grasslands, which could slow the rate of melting permafrost and, therefore, reduce carbon emissions. This process, theoretically, could slow the process of global warming. The same technology used for de-extinction–inserting DNA of living species into the DNA of close genetic relatives–could be used to help populate species that are currently endangered, or to diversify the gene pool of species with little genetic variation, leaving populations less susceptible to viruses, bacterial infections and disease. Proponents of reviving species also say that being able to observe living, breathing organisms that roamed the Earth in ancient times could provide scientific insight into Earth’s past. By researching the way these animals are structured and how they function, we could make inferences about the ecosystems they thrived in and the conditions that drove them to extinction, maybe even filling in some of the gaps in evolutionary theory.

Would the option of bringing back extinct species give humans less pause about destroying delicate ecosystems?

Opponents of bringing back extinct species think that it may make people less concerned about  future environmental destruction. Human activities like deforestation continue to cause extreme ecosystem fragmentation and obliteration. Many species have gone extinct as a result a rapidly changing environments and destruction of very delicate ecosystems. If we develop a way to bring back extinct species, people may not be as worried because even if a species dies out, we could always bring them back. However, if a species that went extinct due to habitat destruction was revived, there wouldn’t be natural habitat in which they could live. The animals may have to be taken care of in protected lands. Lastly, we don’t know the environmental impacts of bringing back extinct species. Would they be invasive? If there weren’t predators for this species, it could become overpopulated. Alternatively, it could become a “new” predator and wipe out other species. Just because an extinct species once had a niche in the world, doesn’t mean it does today.

What do you think? Are you in favor of de-extinction? Why or why not?


More Resources

Website: Revive and Restore
Candidate Species for De-Extinction
See a list of species that scientists working on de-extinction see as possible contenders (or not) and learn why.

Article: New York Times
We Might Soon Resurrect Extinct Species. Is It Worth the Cost?
Read about the reasons some scientists are putting efforts toward reviving extinct species and why other scientists think that it’s just wasteful spending of money.

Video: KQED
Reawakening Extinct Species
Learn about the growing efforts to bring back extinct species. including the passenger pigeon and woolly mammoth.


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Should We Bring Back Extinct Species? 11 April,2017SENCER
  • Stone Dennison

    If it is true that bringing back extinct species may help our environment, we should weight the pros and cons accordingly. My question is why? Why do we need to use the resources to bring back animals that could not adapt fast enough to survive their environment. I believe the argument that bringing back animals such as the mammoth would help against global warming is not looking at the actual cause of global warming. According to a report by the United Nations, 51% of greenhouse gases emitted into the atmosphere are due to animal agriculture. This is about 3 times more than cars and transportation… Therefore, perspective is needed. I do not believe we need to waste resources to repopulate a inferior species of animal. #DoNowURevive #myCMSTArgs

    • Owen Smith

      I agree with your skepticism towards the environmental benefits of resurrecting lost species. I do not see a real connection between the two. It is ignorant to believe that bringing Woolly Mammoths back from the dead will revitalize our environment. However, I do not believe that this is reason enough to simply give up on this idea. Research should be continued until there are absolutely no doubts, and from there we should precede. However, I agree with you in the fact that this may be a bad idea, and that we should thoroughly weigh both the pros and cons of this scenario before continuing.
      #DoNowURevive #myCMSTArgs

  • Owen Smith

    My stance on this issue is very wishy-washy, and I find myself having a hard time really associating strongly with either side of the argument. This is because I can understand certain points made from both sides. One area where I do have a firm and resounding opinion is on more recently extinct species. Species that went extinct due to the activities and damages of mankind. We should feel morally responsible for those species’ exodus from our existence. In cases such as these, I feel as though we should spend the time and the resources to attempt to bring them back. There is also a negative to this though, as this new found power to resurrect the dead may in fact make us even less sensitive towards the other species that we coexist with. We will have far less regret with killing off a certain animal, for we could simply reinvent them later. I do not fully support the idea of attempting to bring back Woolly Mammoths or actually create a Jurassic Park. I simply fail to see the reward for the costs that are involved. This is such a complex issue with so many unseen complications that could arise, that I have a hard time placing myself behind one side of the argument, seeing as either side could be detrimentally incorrect. If we do end up going through with it, only time will tell if it was the correct choice.
    https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/20/science/revive-restore-extinct-species-dna-mammoth-passenger-pigeon.html?_r=0
    #DoNowURevive #myCMSTArgs

    • Ryan Sotelo

      I agree with your post! There are some strong arguments for de-extinction but the negatives definitely outweigh the positives. The question of if there would be adequate natural habitat or it becoming a territorial problem with no natural predator; along with having a cost to living species and a massive cost for funding, there are enough reasons to rethink de-exctinction. #DoNowURevive #myCMSTArgs

  • Kelsey Bridewell

    Wow!! This is incredible. I believe this is something worth pursuing for our global climate change dilemma. I am concerned for the well being and general health of these animals if they were to be resurrected. There would be some minor displacement of these animals for awhile I would presume, and who’s to say these scientists could change the elephant DNA enough to actually create a wooly mammoth able to resist the cold. Dr. George Church, a Professor of Genetics at Harvard, stated in the above video that tests have been conducted in Siberia in which the hypothesis that these animals would prolong the nearing problem of carbon release from the Tundra, and the result was that temperature decreased by a significantly high amount of 20 degrees. This would certainly aid in the problem that the Tundra is melting and if it melts enough very high amounts of carbon dioxide will be released into the air causing a spike in greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and raising global climate temperature even more. I think this is definitely a solution, and a pretty cool innovation, to pursue. #MyCMSTArgs #DoNowURevive

    • 3beaunabelle

      I agree with you. This link talks about how when wolves were returned to Yellowstone, Elk populations were reduced which allowed for trees to come back. http://www.pbs.org/newshour/rundown/wolves-greenthumbs-yellowstone/
      This is s slightly different take because we didn’t “create” wolves we just reintroduced them to an area. It does show how it can be good for the overall ecosystem.

      • Hillary Clintub

        Not so good for the elk, though. Think the elk would vote for reintroducing wolves?

        • 3beaunabelle

          Definitely not, however in this instance with the balance impacted by human events (killing of the wolves) the elk were impacting the overall biodiversity of the park. And Trees create oxygen. The elk don’t get a vote. This was a situation where human intervention created a problem and human intervention was able to fix the problem.

          • Hillary Clintub

            So now we’re gonna let the wolves kill off all the elk. Alpha predators always impact the balance. Every ecosystem has an alpha predator, human or not. Personally, I kinda like being the alpha predator on the planet. Beats the heck outta being the alpha prey. We humans, though, are still in close competition with viruses for the honor of being the alpha predator.

          • 3beaunabelle

            Since wolves and elk co-existed before, I think we can safely assume the wolves will not kill off ALL the elk. Nature has a way of balancing these things. If wolves kill and eat too many elk there will be less in the following years and thus less wolves will survive (as they will have less to eat) and the elk population will spring back. And the cycle will continue. The only time the cycle is thrown off is when something (generally humans) removes a link from the chain.
            And to answer your question from the other comment thread, humans killed wolves unnecessarily to protect their grazing livestock. Humans did not eat the meat, they did not use the fur pelts, they did not in any way consume the killed animals. That is “unnecessary killing” as I see it. Most predators only kill what they need to survive. Killing more than you need is not the way to maintain the earth for humans or any other species.
            Nature does maintain a balance, maybe not by some magic puppet string puller but just by design. (Like the wolf example above).

    • Yasmin Gonzalez

      If the scientists aren’t able to make them resistant to the cold wouldn’t this just cause them to go extinct all over again? I agree this is a cool innovation but there is a lot of other things that we can do to help prevent climate change that don’t include manipulating an asian elephants DNA into a mammoths. I think there is just going to be a lot of risks and unknowns going along with this and it just seems unnatural. An upside would be the climate change help and learning more about genetics but do those things outweigh the negatives and risks that may come about? #MyCMSTArgs #DoNowURevive

    • Stone Dennison

      I would like to point out that the degree that these animals better the environment is marginal at best. According to the United Nations, 51% of greenhouse emissions are related to animal agriculture. If you would like to make a impact for the better, stop consuming animal products. Otherwise the argument for the global climate change dilemma is valid, just very weak. Anyways, here is an article about bringing back species it is a decent article.. http://www.nationalgeographic.com/deextinction/ #DoNowURevive #myCMSTArgs

  • Hillary Clintub

    Sounds like one of those B grade sci-fi horror flicks where a plane crashes in a remote jungle and the survivors find themselves besieged by dinosaurs or other incredible lifeforms. Extinction is natural. Bringing them back is not. Go read Mary Shelley’s book again.

    • 3beaunabelle

      While I see your point, some animals provide a necessary link in the food chain that helps contain a lower link. This helps everyone. And I’m not sure that extinction is “natural” especially if it’s manmade extinction.

      • Hillary Clintub

        It makes no difference whether an extinction is man made, wolf made or virus made, the result is still according to nature and it’s all the same. Something has to eat the last member of a species or else it would all go to waste. Nature hates waste. Every living plant or animal on the planet is here to be eaten by some other animal or plant…thank goodness.

        • 3beaunabelle

          I’m not suggesting that animals and plants should not eat each other. I’m saying that man kills many things unnecessarily. Which is waste. And I’m not sure I understand you logic for eating the last member of a species. It’s very clear that nature love biodiversity. There is nothing that shows in a natural state (without human intervention) nature encourages or allows the elimination of species.
          And if we do not do something to reverse the damage we have done in the past then eventually the only thing that will be left is the trees, which don’t need any other living thing to survive.

          • Hillary Clintub

            I don’t think humans intervened very much in the extinction of the dinosaurs. I could be wrong, though.

          • Hillary Clintub

            3b, I guess I just woke up in a strange mood this morning. I don’t really want to start an argument but I would kind of like to have a discussion about this subject. I often find it puzzling as to how and why people try to impute things to nature that just aren’t there…such as morality, emotion, purpose…and, yes, even the idea of “necessity”. I have to say, I don’t understand how you decided that man kills “unnecessarily”. A lot of things kill “unnecessarily”. An avalanche or a flood kills “unnecessarily”. Who but man decides what’s necessary and what isn’t? The universe would still go on if the whole earth fell into the sun this afternoon. Why do people try to blame humans for the actions of nature? Do some people just have a “guilt gene” that overrides their logic? Seems to me that any logic that overrides a species’ survival instinct would be counterproductive. Intentionally bringing back extinct species that would compete with us for resources, or even try to kill us, would be illogical in my book. I would ask anyone here to name a single creature or plant that’s ever gone extinct that we later found was “necessary” to anyone’s survival.

  • Yasmin Gonzalez

    I do not think that we should bring up extinct animals. I think that evolution along with extinction happens for a reason I’m not saying we shouldn’t try our best to save animals at the brink of extinction but those that are already gone should be left that way. I think that there can be a lot of unknowns if this is to be done and I don’t think its necessary to do so. yes, this would be an amazing unbelievable thing that I didn’t think would even be possible but it just seems unnatural. I understand how this could potentially help our climate problems but there is so many other things we can do to help our climate that do not include reviving an extinct animal. http://reviverestore.org/projects/woolly-mammoth/ revivestori.org gives a few more reasons for the purpose of brining mammoths back but ultimately I think we need to consider any negatives that may come about or if there is too many unknowns that could put us at risk. #MyCMSTArgs #DoNowURevive

    • Trevor Ramsey

      It is true that evolution and extinction go hand in hand. Whether natural or man-made events were responsible for the extinction it did happen for a reason. The constant evolution of species is what drive life on Earth. While humans should try and avoid accelerating extinction, we would not be where we are today if not for natural selection. #MyCMSTArgs #DoNowURevive

  • Ryan Sotelo

    I don’t think that de-extinction is the solution for conservation. There is already a limited amount of funding towards conservation efforts and to de-exctint a species is a figure that is not known but is estimated to go toward 10 Million dollars or more. This could result in 4 species being extinct for the resurrection of 1 past species, “It would be one step forward, and three to eight steps back.” as stated by Dr. Bennet who is an assistant professor and conservation researcher at Carleton University in Ontario. (New York Times https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/20/science/revive-restore-extinct-species-dna-mammoth-passenger-pigeon.html). There is a lack of funding and the potential to cause more extinctions, conservation efforts have a long list of efforts that could be funded, and many living species that should be defended rather than trying to bring other species back to life. There are a lot of arguments that make sense why it should happen such as having private funding for de-excintion. There are a lot of factors to keep in mind when considering the resurrection of an extinct species, and a majority of them point more toward the negative aspects. #DoNowURevive #myCMSTArgs

    • Ciana Bell

      I agree, the funds for de excitation are extremely high. The funds that would be going towards de extinction should be used to help conserve the species that already roam our earth. We should be working to better the living environments for plants and animals, not introducing new species to our world. I feel as though we are constantly trying to bring things back from the past, rather than working on the present. De Extinction, in my opinion, is a terrible idea and I do not feel that it would be a benefit to our world. I hope that this is realized by others and science does not try to “show off” for the world.

  • Trevor Ramsey

    According to Briticannica.com extinctions are a result of natural or man-made events that appear on both a large and small scale. Local extinctions are results of habitat loss and over hunting. While species may still be alive in isolated regions the overall health of the global population is suffering dramatically. Global extinctions are commonly results of a larger threat such as climate change. Until recently a species that has reached global extinction was thought to be lost forever, but with the help of scientists, attempts are being made to bring them back from the grave. I believe that once a species has reached global extinction it should stay that way. It became extinct for a reason right? Whether from the inability to adapt to a changing climate or consumed as food for a more dominant species, there was a reason behind the extinction. The constant evolution of new species to replace those that have become extinct is what life is all about. Survival of the fittest has ruled since the dawn of time, so why should we go against the norm and resurrect those who could not cope? #DoNowURevive #MyCMSTArgs
    Source: https://www.britannica.com/science/extinction-biology

    • Tt

      I totally agree. Evolution requires some species to die off in order to promote growth of another or to allow for changes within the ecosystem. To bring back and reintroduce an extinct specious is the equivalent of introducing an invasive species. They no longer have a niche in the ecosystem and we should not be putting the power into human hands when nature has been doing it since the beginning. #DoNowURevive #MyCMSTArgs

    • Jace Cuneo

      I agree with you for the most part. I am just torn when coming to resurrecting a creature, later in the future when other alive animals are taken care of, and there is more funding of course, that can improve the environment or catch rats in overpopulated areas. But there is no way I am in support of bringing back extinct species for human entertainment.
      #DoNowURevive #MyCMSTArgs

  • Tt

    I stand with not bringing back extinct species, at least on a large scale. To reintroduce an extinct species into a habitat could completely throw off the balance of the ecosystem. They are no longer a native species as the environments they once lived in have evolved and adapted to new changes overtime. Did we learn nothing from Jurassic Park? Bringing back extinct species poses a huge threat to human populations, as well as ecosystems that are not equipped to handle the abrupt introduction of a species that was previously extinct. We are not the synthetic creators of life nor should we be playing our hand at such. In order to reach balance within an ecosystem, species adapt and evolve to fit its needs. Those that fit and adapt well survive and thrive and those that do not die off. The cost of reintroducing five extinct species, not including the cost to engineer them, was similar to saving more than eight times as many living species. If were going to put money towards the conservation animals, lets save the current animals endangered and facing extinction before bringing back species that no longer have an ecosystem to return to. #DoNowURevive #MyCMSTArgs
    https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/20/science/revive-restore-extinct-species-dna-mammoth-passenger-pigeon.html?_r=1

  • Ciana Bell

    I can understand peoples fascination with the idea of bringing back extinct species, however I do not think this is something we should be concerning ourselves with. Rather than trying to bring back the already extinct species, we should be working to help endangered and other species across the world to remain alive by bettering their living environments. According to the Center for Biological Diversity, “our planet is now in the midst of its sixth mass extinction of plants and animals” this is something we should be working to end, rather than trying to bring back the already extinct (online source). Furthermore, it is known that”extinction is a natural phenomenon, it occurs at a natural “background” rate of about one to five species per year. [However] scientists estimate we’re now losing species at 1,000 to 10,000 times the background rate, with literally dozens going extinct every day” (Online Source). These facts that I have provided further strength my claim that we should be allocating funds towards helping to save the species which are endangered, not bringing back the extinct species. http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/programs/biodiversity/elements_of_biodiversity/extinction_crisis/
    #MyCMSTArgs #DoNowURevive

  • Jace Cuneo

    I would like to a agree with bringing Mammoths and Triceratops back, but I just cannot agree if doing so comes at the cost of other animal species. Even though it is a good argument about the reduced permafrost emission into the environment. But freakin money is the issue here. Conservation funds are very limited already and I think we need to worry about saving creatures, like the elephant, that are alive before we can go investing millions into what could be a good idea. According to https://www.sciencenews.org/blog/wild-things/de-extinction-probably-isnt-worth-it there are maybe only a handful of extinct creatures where the positive effects would outweigh the negative effects. I think we should research what extinct animals would have a positive effect environmentally for the future when we have already taken care of the creatures that are still breathing.
    #DoNowURevive #MyCMSTArgs

    • Grace Gerberich

      I agree! We need to stick to giving our full attention to those animals who are currently struggling. Once we establish all endangered species as no longer endangered, then we can resume to discuss the idea of bringing back extinct species. If we jump the gun, bringing back these species can completely mess with our ecosystems that are or aren’t flourishing. #DoNowURevive #MyCMSTArgs

  • Grace Gerberich

    Although I find the idea of bringing back extinct species to be extremely fascinating, I don’t find the idea to be necessary. Instead of working hard in experimenting with species who have been long gone, we should put forth a strong, consistent effort in helping those species who are endangered as well as improving the environment for species who are essential on this earth. By bringing back already extinct species we will be fooling with the natural order of extinction that actually occurs at a natural rate of 1-5 species per year. Also bringing back these species can completely throw off the balance of our already changing ecosystems. #DoNowURevive #MyCMSTArgs http://www.nationalgeographic.com/deextinction/

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