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Let’s face it, scientists: some genes are meant to be folded


It was 15 years ago this week that the bucardo mountain goat became extinct after a tree fell on the last of its species in northern Spain, prompting scientists to ponder the age-old question: If a tree falls on a goat in the woods, does it make a sound? To that end, U.S. and Spanish researchers are collaborating to utilize cells preserved in liquid nitrogen to clone yet another member of an extinct species — the bucardo — whose scientific name is goatus stupidus. While I can appreciate the enormity of this scientific milestone, it also raises a fundamental question about our genetic science capabilities: Should we duplicate an animal that wasn’t smart enough to avoid its own doom by moving a couple of hooves to the left?

According to researchers, the Massachusetts-based company working on the goat project has already cloned the near-extinct gaur — a humpbacked cow from southeast Asia that is on the endangered species list because of its propensity to get stuck in small openings and starve to death.

And what about the meestupido, a relative of the polar bear that resides in Siberia and is now dwindling in numbers because of its flawed instinct to stop eating and remove all of its hair before going into hibernation?

Angola’s yellow-billed, purging cockatoo? The extremely rare, trunk-swallowing elephants of China? The sand-drinking lizards of the Sahara that tragically fill themselves with sand and are then sold as hacky sacks?

The point is, our growing capability to “de-extinct” (that’s a scientific term) a species is making it necessary to devise guidelines to help determine the difference between “extinction” and “natural selection.”

Because we here at LAP know scientists are busy, and because if this post ended here it would be about 250 words too short, we took it upon ourselves to host an impromptu conference call with a panel of philosophers, geneticists, researchers and one extra from the original Jurassic Park (He was the guy scooping the velociraptor cages.)

Our objective?

Compose a short list of considerations that can help genetic scientists determine those species that should be rescued from the brink of extinction — and those meant to jump off the edge.

Immediately, we all agreed Justin Bieber should never be cloned. Even if he is struck by a falling tree or gets stuck in a revolving door. Either of which is entirely possible.

We also determined that in order to be cloned, a species should:

1) Not be instinctively suicidal.
2) In some way advance the eco-system, either by its direct contribution to the food chain, or by its marketing potential as a mascot for fast-food chains.
3) Not be any type of insect (Everyone on the panel agreed that we have plenty).
4) Not resemble a species we already have; between brown chickens and white chickens, one will have to go.
5) Never have been the subject of a Stephen King novel.
6) Have potential as an offering to alien invaders.
7) Be no bigger than an SUV.

If scientists follow this basic list of criteria, we will be able to prevent the tragic duplication of things like flightless birds, lemmings, rabid St. Bernards, lawyers and the beakless hummingbird.

And let’s just say that, for the sake of our own species, we really need to get our obesity problem under control if we want to avoid No. 7.



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About Ned's Blog (35 Articles)
I've been a journalist and humor columnist at the Siuslaw News for 16 years. I'm also a volunteer firefighter. If the newspaper ever burns down, I will have some explaining to do. I'm married to the perfect woman, have four great kids, and a tenuous grip on my sanity...

10 Comments on Let’s face it, scientists: some genes are meant to be folded

  1. Screw cloning. I’m all about GMO’s. I want a Bacon Tree and a cow that you can milk Coors Light from.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. As the president of The ADL – Apteryx Defense League – I object to your cloning criteria on behalf of wingless birds with hairy feathers everywhere. Apteryx is the genus name for the Kiwi bird – the very bird that represents all New Zealanders. Just because our clients do not contribute in an obvious manner to the health and welfare of the eco-system, is not sufficient reason to deny them the potential of renewal by cloning. It could be said that humorists also fall into that category.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I was tired when I read this and at first I thought it said scientists were cloning a burrito, which is fine with me, as long as it had steak and cheese.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Two questions:
    1. The Tree or the Goat?
    2. What do you have against Brown Chickens, Whitey?

    Liked by 1 person

  5. One of the benefits of living near an organic foods market. Not that I eat that crap…


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