DailyDirt: Playing With Biological Fire By Reviving Ancient Organisms

from the urls-we-dig-up dept

Life has existed on the Earth for a pretty long time, perhaps longer than you might imagine. Biology seems pretty resilient, though, there have been five major mass extinctions (the last of the five killed off the dinosaurs) -- and at least 20 total mass extinction events over the last half billion years or so. Maybe we're working on the sixth major extinction event by messing around with nuclear weapons or the Large Hadron Collider. Or perhaps we'll bring back something from the past that we'll regret. Here are a few of examples of ancient organisms that we might not want to revive. If you'd like to read more awesome and interesting stuff, check out this unrelated (but not entirely random!) Techdirt post via StumbleUpon.
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Filed Under: biology, biotech, cloning, extinction, moss, permafrost, resuscitation, silene stenophylla, virus, woolly mammoth


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  1. identicon
    Lawrence D’Oliveiro, 19 Mar 2014 @ 5:30pm

    If Frozen Bugs Were Capable Of Infecting Humans ...

    ... it’s not clear why they should end up confined to permafrost, since there have been plenty of humans around to keep infecting over the past several hundred thousand years.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    zip, 19 Mar 2014 @ 5:53pm

    Ice-Man

    I was disappointed that they didn't try to clone the Ice-Man when they had the chance.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. icon
    Spaceman Spiff (profile), 19 Mar 2014 @ 6:11pm

    To paraphrase an old saying

    It's not safe to fool with Mother Nature!

    She killed off these life forms for a reason - like to give us a chance. And she will probably kill us off as well to give the next candidate for king of the earth a chance to do better / smarter than us... Generally, evolution is a slow process, but sometimes change is mind-numbingly quick!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. icon
    Roger Strong (profile), 19 Mar 2014 @ 9:52pm

    Playing in controlled conditions

    A problem we're having here in Canada is that the permafrost is receding. Any infectious viruses lurking in the permafrost may very well be reappearing anyway.

    Discovering it - and what it can do - well ahead of time under lab conditions seems like a good idea.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 20 Mar 2014 @ 12:46am

    Re: If Frozen Bugs Were Capable Of Infecting Humans ...

    Quick answer is that they are. Or rather, their descendants, billions of generations removed, still infect us. The possible threat here is that modern human immune systems may not be prepared for a prehistoric blast-from-the-viral-past.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    the truth, 20 Mar 2014 @ 1:12am

    Re: Re: If Frozen Bugs Were Capable Of Infecting Humans ...

    I believe it will be the other way around for sure! That wooly mammoth would die from the common cold today but I believe its less likely that would have something that would bother us. Or both but most defiantly the other way around. Examples of such can be found today so this is pretty certain

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. icon
    charliebrown (profile), 20 Mar 2014 @ 5:06am

    Mammoth

    Would cloning a wooly mammoth result in cheaper* wool? If so, I'm all for it! (*Cheaper as in cheaper on the environment to produce as well as the actual monetary cost)

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 20 Mar 2014 @ 6:11am

    Re: Re: If Frozen Bugs Were Capable Of Infecting Humans ...

    "The possible threat here is that modern human immune systems may not be prepared..."

    Yeah, maybe. On the other hand, the human immune system has been fighting the descendants of these creatures, i.e., millions of generations of the ever-more specifically evolved and competent microbial attackers. It's more likely that the upteenth precursor ancestral critter is just plain outclassed by the contemporary human immune system. Additionally, ancient beasties likely have little or no resistance to even old, current relatively less effective drug agents.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    Thorsten Roggendorf, 22 Mar 2014 @ 4:19am

    The sixth extinction

    The sixth extinction is in full progress and it don't need no nukes. It is not even a modern phenomenon. Apparently African fauna had time to adapt to human hunting pressure but once humans left Africa we built a traceable path of destruction. Obviously we came back to Africa with better gear and made ends meet there, too.
    The phenomenon of the sixth extinction is known at least since the mid nineties when Leaky and others wrote a book about it. The extinction rate is on par with the 5 great extinctions since the cambrian explosion (half a billion years ago) and it currently looks like the total extinction ratio will be among the worst of these six events.
    Personally I believe the problem is at least equally grave as climate change the latter is the much better brand, though.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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