Deextinction: what would happen if the dinosaurs came back to life? – Codelist

In Jurassic Park, the film by the great Steven Spielberg released in the 90s, a tycoon decides to build a dinosaur theme park. To achieve this, he invests a lot of money so that scientists can develop a method to recover dinosaur blood stored in the abdomen of mosquitoes that have been trapped in resin. From this blood, DNA is isolated and the information that the passage of time has deteriorated is filled with amphibian DNA. Once the DNA is complete, all that remains is to clone the organism and give birth to females unable to reproduce among themselves. To what extent is everything that happens in the famous film reproducible by non-fiction science?

Daniel Salamone, veterinarian and researcher at Conicet, specialist in cloning and assisted procreation techniquesspeaks with the UNQ Science News Agency, and is categorical in his response: “I don’t know if we can go so far as to create a real Jurassic Park, but today we have the capacity to sequence part of the DNA of these animals”.

Cloning as a way to resurrect

The cloning technique opens up new possibilities. Salamone explains that it is a process that uses the genetic material of a living being to create an identical copy. Essentially, he seeks to copy something that nature had already created. “Animal cloning is the creation of a twin animal to a pre-existing animal, that is, a time-delayed twin. It is to make an identical copy, with the same characteristics of a twin, but many years later”. Unlike genetic modification, cloning does not produce changes in DNA sequence, but genetic modification could be used to make some living animals have characteristics of animals that have already died out.

The Argentinian specialist assures that there are concrete projects with funding for the cloning of a mammoth: “Part of the genetic information of this animal is available, so its characteristics could be introduced into existing animals that are related to it, like the elephant.” And he illustrates: “We know that the mammoth had in its blood a protein which acts by transporting oxygen and which allowed it, unlike an elephant, to live in very cold places. In this direction, if we introduce this genetic modification into an elephant, we would be on the verge of having a more mammoth-like animal”.


Those who oppose the possibility of bringing back extinct animals say that the specimens created during the deextinction process they could end up suffering, either because of the processes used or because of their particular genomic variations. The Animal Welfare Act specifically limits this type of suffering. Beyond physical suffering, some proponents might oppose eradicating extinction the way they oppose zoos, arguing that they exploit animals for unimportant human purposes, such as entertainment.

Secondly, newly extinct creatures could be pathogen vectors and harbor unrecognized harmful endogenous retroviruses. During this time, if the species is released or escapes into the general environment, it could cause considerable damage. Even extinct species that were not harmful in their past environment could become so today.


They are quite close to the arguments put forward to preserve currently threatened or endangered species. In this direction, deextinction could offer scientists the unique opportunity to study living members of previously extinct species (or, at least, close approximations of these species), providing information on their functioning and evolution. Some resurrected species can be translated into useful products.

Disextinction could also lead to improvements in genetic engineering. Additionally, some researchers claim that “renaturation” with extant and locally extinct species in particular habitats, can help restore extinct or threatened ecosystems. The revival of the woolly mammoth as one of the main grazing animals in the Arctic, for example, could offer substantial benefits by helping to restore an arctic steppe instead of the less ecologically rich tundra.

For Salamone, the big question is, “If we don’t have the ability to preserve animals that exist today, why would we want animals that went extinct millions of years ago?” We must first pay off a big debt, which is to preserve the species that exist today,” he concludes.

It is therefore crucial that humans reduce the causes of extinction, including habitat destruction, pollution and climate change.

By: Maria Ximena Perez

With information from the Science Press Agency

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