Saturday, 2 November 2019

Research: Extinction

Extinction is defined as the death of the last living member of a species, but a species may lose its ability to breed and sustain itself a long time before that.
DNA map
A Brief History of the Future gives a date of 2134 as when fifteen percent of all the species on Earth became extinct but the modern estimate is fifty percent will be gone as early as 2050. Most extinctions are caused by man destroying habitats, particularly through large scale deforestation.

The group Extinction Rebellion are a lot in the news, trying to draw attention to the climate change emergency which is also causing species extinction. Here are some brief quotes from the Extinction Rebellion website :
  • We are facing an unprecedented global emergency. Life on Earth is in crisis: scientists agree we have entered a period of abrupt climate breakdown, and we are in the midst of a mass extinction of our own making.
  • Human activity is causing irreparable harm to the life on this world.
  • Many current life forms will be extinct by the end of this century. We may right now be causing the Sixth Mass Extinction in Earth’s history.
So what can we do about this situation? The author of A Brief History of the Future suggests:
Fortunately researchers had been sequencing their DNA for a hundred years which meant that there was a chance they could be resurrected. However for successful resurrection thousands of unique samples had to have been collected, which was not always true. In these cases a resurrected species was similar to but not the same as the original life form, which meant that even if it looked similar, it did a slightly different job in its ecosystem.
Work like this is already being undertaken, but more for research than resurrection.  This article by the Natural History Museum   tells of a CryoArk being set up, led by Cardiff University, to bring together disparate stores of animal DNA.

Ann Marie Thomas is the author of four medieval history books, a surprisingly cheerful poetry collection about her 2010 stroke, and the science fiction series Flight of the Kestrel. Book one, Intruders, and book two Alien Secrets, are out now. Follow her at

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