DNA Day experts answer your questions about cloning extinct species

Above: Image © Dantheman9758, Wikimedia Common

If we can clone an animal such as a sheep (dolly) how come we can't clone recently extinct animals such as the quagga?

Mostly the issue is the amount and quality of DNA that's available. Cloning a mammal isn't that easy to begin with, and it's no surprise it was done with a sheep - plenty of eggs to work with, plenty of mistakes can be made before you succeed. The other thing is that to bring an embryo to term you need a mother, and there are no living quaggas ... That would mean that a zebra's egg would contain quagga DNA, and that isn't exactly a quagga, is it?

- Answer provided by Jay Ingram

In genetic studies, there is often the problem of ethical debates. Recently, scientists have quibbled over whether or not to clone a woolly mammoth, the DNA of which was extracted remarkably intact from a frozen and preserved corpse uncovered. What are the benefits and ramifications of cloning an animal of this complexity, both on a genetic and ethical level?

This will continue to be a long debate. Benefits are that potentially one could bring an extinct species back to life. As this would be "unnatural" not everyone believes that this is the right thing to do. In addition, as our environment has changed any species that you could clone may not survive in its "natural" environment. Instead they feel more emphasis needs to be placed to ensure that a species does not become extinct.

- Answer provided by Dr. Gijs Van Rooijen

What concerns do you have with respect to cloning extinct species?

Beyond watching Jurrasic Park, I haven't thought about this too much, to be honest :-) If you're talking about cloning an naturally extinct virus (like smallpox), there are clear risks, but I'm guessing you're talking about one off animals.

- Answer provided by Dr. Paul Gordon

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