Tag Archives: goat

Scientists use gene editing on ‘elite males’ for better livestock breeding

Credit: Pixabay.

In order to breed livestock with more desirable traits for food production, such as disease resistance, better meat, and dairy quality, or heat tolerance, many farmers employ selective breeding or more modern techniques such as artificial insemination. Both approaches, however, have their limitations that could be superseded by gene editing with CRISPR technology, scientists argue in a new study.

Although food availability has increased along with the growing human population over the last 30 years, there are still 800 million people suffering from malnutrition, most of whom live in developing nations. In areas where food security is lacking, ruminant livestock (i.e. sheep and goats) often plays a crucial role in the food chain. But while the population of livestock has relatively kept up with our growing nutritional needs, there is still much room for improvement.

For the last six years, an international scientific collaboration involving researchers at Washington State University, Utah State University, University of Maryland, and the Roslin Institute at the University of Edinburgh in the U.K., has been working on speeding up and improving livestock food production using gene-editing techniques.

In a new study, the researchers have presented their findings. They claim they have created pigs, goats, and cattle that can serve as “surrogate sires” — initially sterile males that produce sperm carrying only the genetic traits of an “elite” donor animal. In this context, “elite” refers to animals that have genetic traits that make them more resistant to disease and produce offspring with desirable characteristics in terms of food production.

“With this technology, we can get better dissemination of desirable traits and improve the efficiency of food production. This can have a major impact on addressing food insecurity around the world,” said Jon Oatley, a reproductive biologist with Washington State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine. “If we can tackle this genetically, then that means less water, less feed and fewer antibiotics we have to put into the animals.”

Oatley and colleagues used CRISPR-Cas9 to breed mice, pigs, goats, and cattle that lacked a gene called NANOS2. The gene encodes the expression of molecules that are specifically related to male fertility (i.e. sperm production).

Males lacking the gene grew up sterile but otherwise healthy. They then received a transplant of sperm-producing cells in their testes from other animals. The animals then produced sperm that had the genetic material from the donor.

Surrogate mice fathered healthy offspring who turned out to carry the genes of the donor mice. The researchers also bred sterile male pigs, goats, and cattle, but these larger animals haven’t mated yet.

“This shows the world that this technology is real. It can be used,” said Whitelaw. “We now have to go in and work out how best to use it productively to help feed our growing population.”

Farmers often use artificial insemination to breed livestock such as cattle that have the most desirable genetic characteristics. However, this is an expensive breeding technique that requires either animal proximity or strict control of their movements. For goats, artificial insemination is even more challenging, often requiring surgical procedures.

“Goats are the number one source of protein in a lot of developing countries,” Irina Polejaeva, a professor at Utah State University, said in a statement. “This technology could allow faster dissemination of specific traits in goats, whether it’s disease resistance, greater heat tolerance or better meat quality.”

This is where surrogate sire technology could come in handy, enabling ranchers and herders to have their animals roam freely. Females with a deactivated NANOS2 gene remain fertile, so they can be subsequently used to birth sterile males to be used as surrogate sires.

That being said, this approach is currently impossible at a commercial scale due to regulations, as well as public perception. According to Oatley, gene editing involves making specific, small changes that could occur naturally, and does not combine DNA from different species.

“Even if all science is finished, the speed at which this can be put into action in livestock production anywhere in the world is going to be influenced by societal acceptance and federal policy,” said Oatley. “By working with policymakers and the public, we can help to provide information assuring the public that this science does not carry the risks that other methods do.”

The findings appeared in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

While we quarantine, some animals take to the streets, some get lonely, and a panda may get pregnant

As we keep to our homes more and more, wildlife is coming into the city to explore. Luckily for us, there’s always a camera nearby to capture such moments for “d’awws” and “aawws” on social media.

But not all animals are enjoying themselves equally. With zoos shutting their gates to the public, and amid growing concern that staff could unwittingly infect them, some zoo animals are starting to miss getting attention — but they’re also getting busy.

The goats of Llandudno

Wild goats roaming through Llandudno in North Wales by Andrew Stuart, a video producer at Manchester Evening News.
Image via Medium.

“Llandudno has a herd of wild goats, which date back to the 1800s. They do like to come down the hillside, as seen many, many times previously — and documented extensively by my colleagues at North Wales Live and the Daily Post,” Stuart explained for Medium.

“They are still wary of people and human life. Normally, they are put off going much further than the bottom of the Great Orme because of how busy it is (in relative terms — this is still Llandudno after all, and not inner-city Manchester). However, thanks to the Covid-19 lockdown, the goats didn’t have any traffic, people or noise stopping them — so they ventured out.”

The goats do seem to enjoy themselves, as they chew through local shrubbery and gardens, sunbathe in a churchyard, and even “blocked traffic”. However, they are still wary of coming close to humans.

This sleepy fox somewhere in Canada

Image credits SaraReneeRyan / Twitter.

Sara, who is currently pursuing a Ph.D. at Texas Tech, Tweeted that her dad who lives somewhere in Canada “had been sending me and my sister updates [on the fox] all day” and has even named it Nezuko.

It’s not hard to see why.

Foxes are one of the more often-spotted animals in this period, from what I’ve seen so far. There’s a lot of fox photos to enjoy in the replies to Sara’s tweet if that’s your thing (it definitely is mine).

A chill coyote

A coyote spotted in San Francisco.
Image credits beccatravels / Reddit (Becca Cook).

San Francisco is no stranger to coyotes. They live in the woods near the Bay Area and are generally content to stay away from people or ignore them if they meet. This one, however, looks very pleased that the normal hustle and bustle of the city has been curtailed in order do get some peace and quiet with a view.

But while this coyote is enjoying itself, others are hard at work resolving local politics.

“We had coup d’etat if you will,” Presidio Wildlife Ecologist Jonathan Young told ABC News about a fight that broke out in between the animals a few days ago. “A new alpha pair came and took over and kicked out the old alpha pair.”

“Since the COVID shelter-in-place, the winding trails and idle golf course [around the city’s Presidio] have become a go-to refuge for neighbors and more importantly their dogs. For the next few weeks or months, that’s potential trouble.”

The Presidio Trust cautions people that coyotes aren’t typically aggressive, but will regularly be on the hunt or defend themselves from domestic pets. It’s also a pupping season currently, so people would best try to avoid these animals. Sections of the Park Trail and the Bay Area Ridge Trail will be closed to hounds starting April 6 for the next few weeks or months over concerns about safety.

What’s happening in the zoos

We’ve just had our first confirmed case of the coronavirus jumping from a human to a tiger, and zoo staff are understandably worried that they may unwittingly infect their charges. As such, zoos around the world are implementing measures to limit the risk by reducing the animal’s exposure with their handlers and the public.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has since reiterated that there is no evidence yet that pets can spread COVID-19 to people or that they might be a source of infection in the US, but zoos and conservation centers are still being especially careful. For example, the Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation, a rehabilitation center for orangutans in Borneo, closed its doors to all visitors and asked the caretakers to wear masks and protective gloves when working with the primates, which are burned after the working day is over.

Grosser Panda.JPG
A giant panda at Ocean Park, Hongkong.
Image credits J. Patrick Fischer,

Nathan Hawke from Orana wildlife park in New Zealand told The Guardian that although visitors are no longer permitted, many of the park’s animals continue to come for their daily ‘meet the public’ appointments. Other groups of animals that are accustomed to human presence also seem to miss us, too, although the feeling may be forming through their stomach more than through their hearts.

Privacy, perhaps, was just what some of these species had been missing, however. Staff at the Ocean Park in Hong Kong reported that the 14-year-old resident female and male giant pandas Ying Ying and Le Le have “succeeded in natural mating” two days ago — because there aren’t any rules on panda social distancing.

This is the first success since attempts at natural mating began a decade ago, and the staff is excited for the birth, as the species is currently considered vulnerable in the wild but attempts to breed more giant pandas in captivity have been remarkably frustrating.

Goats can tell when you’re happy — and they like it when you smile

Not only can goats tell when people are happy, but they also prefer interacting with happy people.

Goats at the Buttercups Sanctuary. Image credits: Christian Nawroth.

It took us a while to figure it out and prove it, but now we know that animals feel and have empathy. Not only do they understand each others’ emotions, but they can also understand our emotions — something which is especially visible in pets, and even more so with dogs. As our closest companions since the dawn of time, dogs have greatly familiarized themselves with our mood and way of life, even evolving alongside us.

But dogs aren’t the only domestic animals that can read our emotions.

In the first study to ever assess this on goats, researchers explain that goats can differentiate between happy and angry facial reactions, and they prefer happy ones. Dr. Alan McElligott who led the study at Queen Mary University of London and is now based at the University of Roehampton, said:

“The study has important implications for how we interact with livestock and other species, because the abilities of animals to perceive human emotions might be widespread and not just limited to pets.”

Bernard the goat clearly likes happy people.

During the study, which was carried out at Buttercups Sanctuary for Goats in Kent, England, researchers showed 20 goats grey-scale pairs of unfamiliar human faces, exhibiting happy or angry emotions. The team reports that happy faces elicit greater interactions — goats were more likely to reach out to them and explore with their snouts. Furthermore, this was particularly prevalent when the happy faces were positioned on the right, suggesting that the goats use their left (opposite) brain hemisphere to process positive emotions. Overall, this shows just how adept goats have become at reading human body language.

First author Dr. Christian Nawroth, who worked on the study at Queen Mary University of London but is now based at Leibniz Institute for Farm Animal Biology, praises goats’ ability to ‘read’ humans and says that while their ability was previously hinted on, this is the first study that shows goat prefer happy people.

McElligott with a goat which clearly likes that he’s happy. Image credits: Alan McElligott.

“We already knew that goats are very attuned to human body language, but we did not know how they react to different human emotional expressions, such as anger and happiness. Here, we show for the first time that goats do not only distinguish between these expressions, but they also prefer to interact with happy ones.”

The study of emotion perception has already revealed complex capabilities in dogs and horses, says co-author Natalia Albuquerque, from the University of Sao Paulo. But this opens up a whole new avenue, paving the way for studying emotion perception on all domestic animals. It wouldn’t be surprising if, to some extent, all animals can tell when we’re happy.

The study has been published in Royal Society Open Science.

Navajo pottery.

Ancient pottery portrays perilous path for agriculture under climate change

Ancient communities said ‘nay’ to beef and ‘yay’ to mutton and chevon when faced with shifting climates.

Navajo pottery.

Navajo American Indian Pottery. Not related to this study — but pretty!
Image via Pixabay.

We’re not the first generation to struggle with climate change. While our current predicament is of our own making, ancient communities also had to struggle with natural climate shifts. New research explores how farmers 8,200 years ago adapted to such changes.

Food for dry days

“Changes in precipitation patterns in the past are traditionally obtained using ocean or lake sediment cores,” says Dr. Mélanie Roffet-Salque, lead author of the paper. “This is the first time that such information is derived from cooking pots.”

“We have used the signal carried by the hydrogen atoms from the animal fats trapped in the pottery vessels after cooking. This opens up a completely new avenue of investigation – the reconstruction of past climate at the very location where people lived using pottery.”

The study centers on the Neolithic (late stone age) and Chalcolithic (copper age) city of Çatalhöyük in southern Anatolia, Turkey. Çatalhöyük was one of the first cities (if not the first city) to pop up, being settled from approximately 7500 BC to 5700 BC.

Some 8,200 years ago, an event would force these ancient city folk to change their lifestyle. A lake in northern Canada spewed huge quantities of glacial runoff into the ocean, which impacted global water currents, leading to a sudden drop in average temperatures. Hoping to get a better understanding of how such changes impacted the lives of people living during the time, a team led by Dr. Roffet-Salque from the University of Bristol looked at what these people ate.

Animal bones excavated at the site revealed that the city’s inhabitants tried their hand at rearing sheep and goats instead of cattle, as these smaller animals are more resistant to drought. The bones also show an unusually high number of cut marks. The team reports that this is a sign of people trying to free every last scrap of meat from the bones — suggesting that food was likely scarce.

This food scarcity was brought on by changes in precipitation patterns in the Anatolian region during this time, the team reports.

Food for… climate research?

The people of Çatalhöyük didn’t leave any written records we could check — but they did have clay pots used for preparing food. The analysis first revealed the presence of ruminant fats on the pots, which were consistent with and reinforced the hypothesis that herders in Çatalhöyük began favoring sheep and goats in their flocks.

This study is the first time that animal fat residues recovered in an archaeological setting have been used to gauge climate evolution in the past. The team analyzed the isotopic ratios of hydrogen atoms (the deuterium to hydrogen ratio) from these fats. Since animals incorporate atoms from their food and drink, the team found a change in this isotope ratio over the period corresponding to the climate event.

The authors also examined the animal fats surviving in ancient cooking pots. They detected the presence of ruminant carcass fats, consistent with the animal bone assemblage discovered at Çatalhöyük. For the first time, compounds from animal fats detected in pottery were shown to carry evidence for the climate event in their isotopic composition.

“It is really significant that the climate models of the event are in complete agreement with the H signals we see in the animal fats preserved in the pots,” says co-author Richard Evershed.

“The models point to seasonal changes farmers would have had to adapt to — overall colder temperatures and drier summers — which would have had inevitable impacts on agriculture.”

The findings are important given our own climatic complications. We didn’t really know the implications of this event — known as the 8.2 ka event — or that of a similar but smaller one called the 9.2 ka event. They’re encouraging in the sense that the effects weren’t as dramatic as they could have been. There is “no evidence for a simultaneous and widespread collapse, large-scale site abandonment, or migration at the time of the events,” which was a real possibility given that early populations were at the mercy of the environment.

However, the study shows that climate change does indeed come with impacts on the food supply. Society today is much better equipped to mitigate the effect of precipitations on crops, and our food networks span the globe. Even so, we’re still dependent on the environment, and there are many more mouths to feed today. In this light, the findings raise a warning that we should look to our crops lest plates go empty in the near future.

The paper “Evidence for the impact of the 8.2-kyBP climate event on Near Eastern early farmers” has been published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Vaccinating against livestock disease could reduce poverty in eastern Africa, study finds

A proactive vaccination strategy against foot-and-mouth, an infectious disease that affects cloven-hoofed animals, could significantly alleviate poverty in eastern Africa, according to a paper published online this week in Nature Ecology and Evolution.

Cattle farmers all around the world dread foot-and-mouth disease — the virus can cause a high fever and generates painful blisters on the foot and mouth of the unfortunate animal. If these blisters rupture, they can lead to lameness. Adult animals aren’t normally killed by the virus, though young animals are much more vulnerable to it.

The disease has massive economic (and ethical) implications for global farming, especially since it is highly infectious and can spread easily through contact with contaminated farming equipment, vehicles, and even clothing. As a result, the disease affects many areas of the world causing extensive damage, particularly in cattle, sheep, goats, and pigs.

There are vaccines available on the market, but their efficiency is limited because the virus is highly genetically variable. Even so, vaccines may very well be worth the investment as in most cases, they can make a big difference — particularly in impoverished areas.

In a new study, Miriam Casey-Bryars writes that livestock production in Africa is key to national economies, food security and rural livelihoods and more than 85% of livestock keepers live in extreme poverty. Casey-Briars wrote did her PhD thesis on the epidemiology of foot-and-mouth disease, is the lead author of a new paper analyzing the best possible methods to keep the disease under control.

In Africa alone, foot-and-mouth disease is estimated to account for production losses of around US$2.3 billion each year. However, control of the disease is not prioritized: standard vaccination strategies are considered too costly, the impact the disease has on the poorest keepers is almost certainly underestimated, and the local epidemiology is not properly understood.

Vaccination strategies in southern Africa have been successful, although there seems to be far more infection coming from the wildlife in these areas as compared to the eastern parts. This means that it’s cattle, not wildlife driving the disease in eastern Africa — and a timely study of the virus combined with proactive vaccinations could prevent most infections, saving a lot of money for farmers. It also means that wildlife-livestock separation strategies (currently implemented) are unlikely to be effective.

Researchers found that proactive studies and vaccination campaigns could go a long way towards alleviating poverty in the area.

“An enduring problem is that of resources, making routine prophylactic vaccination infeasible, which has resulted in no high quality tailored polyvalent vaccine being developed and a concomitant lack of faith in those that have been procured.”

“Our results indicate that targeted serotype-specific livestock vaccination with monovalent high-potency vaccines ahead of oncoming waves of infection could be more affordable and still has the potential to mitigate the economic and disease impacts in the region, contributing to current poverty-alleviation agendas,” the researchers conclude.

The study has been published in Nature Ecology and Evolution.

Goats are excellent climbers and rarely if ever fall down from a tree. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

How tree-climbing goats keep one of Morocco’s agricultural treasures growing

You’ve seen goats climb rocks, houses, cliffs or even this dam in Italy.


But have you ever seen goats climb trees? In Morrocco, this is a very common occurrence. You see, in most parts of the world where you’ll find goats, their food is usually right under their hoofs. In and around the Atlas Mountains, though, grazing pastures are patchy — here and there. So, goats have learned to make the best of anything they could get their adorable hoofs and snouts on, even if that means being perched high up in the trees.

A lovely goat enjoying some argan seeds. Credit: Pixabay.

A lovely goat enjoying some argan seeds. Credit: Pixabay.

This is not only nice for goats but for the trees themselves too. According to a recent study in the journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment by Spanish researchers who wanted to learn whether domesticated goats benefit argan trees (Argania spinosa). 

Goats in Southern Morrocco will often climb 30-foot-trees in search for food, in this case, acorn-sized argan seeds. Even as much as three-quarters of their time is spent in the argan trees during the autumn days when vegetation is scarce. The team wanted to know if the goats help in any way with seed dispersal.

Goats are excellent climbers and rarely if ever fall down from a tree. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Goats are excellent climbers and rarely if ever fall down from a tree. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

It’s well established that many animals spread the seed of various trees and plants by excreting seeds. This is how all sorts of plant species end up on islands, for instance, after some bird pooped them out even after hundreds of miles. The argan seed, however, is way too big and shouldn’t make it intact out of a goat’s digestive tract.

Argan seeds can grow to be quite large. Credit: Max Pexels.

Argan seeds can grow to be quite large. Credit: Max Pexels.

But precisely because the seeds are so large, they can be a nuisance for the goat.  Instead, the researchers chronicled the goats as they spit the seeds out. Like cows and other ruminants, a goat has multiple stomachs. So, what a Moroccan goat does is it will regurgitate the argan seeds from the first stomach and chew on it some more. During this process, the goats will often spit out some of the argan seeds, sometimes days after first ingesting them. Some seeds are spit very far from the parent tree too, the team found.

Argan farming is the main source of revenue for many rural Moroccans. Some successful farmers will use some of their profits to buy more goats as is the custom, which is aptly given part of that success is predicated on the goats’ ability to disperse the argan seeds and help more trees grow. Ironically, though, if there are too many goats, no new argan forests will appear since the animals eat all the baby trees. This is something many farmers should be more mindful of. And they’re not the only ones either. The main takeaway, not just for you the reader but for many working scientists too, is to look beyond the dung.

“In conclusion, many previous studies that investigated the role of ruminants as seed dispersers were based exclusively on dung analyses and may have underestimated an important fraction of the total number of dispersed seeds. Moreover, this fraction of seeds should correspond to plant species with particular fruit and seed traits (eg large linear dimensions) differing from those of plant species dispersed exclusively or mostly through defecation,” the team wrote in their paper.

“Importantly, the seeds of some species are unlikely to survive passage through the ruminant lower digestive tract so that spitting from the cud may represent their only, or at least their main, dispersal mechanism. It is therefore essential to investigate the effectiveness of this overlooked mechanism of seed dispersal in various habitats and systems,” the Spanish scientists concluded.

Pakistan airline sacrificed a goat in its airport to get rid of bad luck

The year was 2016 and a tragedy occurred: 48 people on board a Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) plane were killed when it crashed in the north of the country. Well, the airline had a very strange way to ensure that kind of problem doesn’t happen again: they sacrificed a goat. A black goat, to be more precise. Next to an aircraft which was about to leave for a domestic flight.

Image credits: Eluveitie

In Pakistan, as well as in other Muslim countries, sacrificing a black goat is supposed to ward off bad luck – but seriously, what year is it? Most people thought the image was a photoshop but when it turned out it was real, outrage was sparked.

In what was likely the first airline statement about a goat killing, PIA spokesperson Danyal Gillani said that the animal sacrifice wasn’t their idea. Airline employees did it spontaneously, and it wasn’t the management’s order.

“It was done by some local employees as a gesture of gratitude over the clearance of the first ATR [for flying].” Animal sacrifice is a part of Islamic tradition and can be found in other religions as well (see Leviticus 23:19).

Hopefully, this isn’t the only thing PIA did to ensure more accidents don’t happen – and hopefully, no more barbaric sacrifices will be needed.

goat eyes

Why goats have really weird rectangular pupils

Ever took a moment to stare a goat in the eyes? If you have, you might have noticed something really weird: their pupils are horizontal, or rectangular. It’s one of those things that baffles the mind once it hits you because we’re so used to circular pupils or even vertical slit ones, on account of cats or snakes.

goat eyes

Credit: Pinterest user Leta Sparks

It’s always about survival

UC Berkeley and Durham University researchers were also intrigued by these somewhat atypical shape. Being scientists, they decided to investigate and analyzed pupil shapes of no fewer than 214 land species.

What they eventually found was that pupil shape is linked to the ecological niche or role of the animal. The general pattern is predators have vertical slit pupils because these help them judge distance better, making it easier to pounce on prey. Meanwhile, herbivores — which are the target of carnivores — have rectangular slit pupils as a line of defense, offering them a broader field of vision.

As a herbivore, apart from some antlers and hooves, there’s not that much you can do to fend back a predator. The best thing they can do is run away, which is why many herbivores are also fast. Before you can run, though, you need to know when it’s time to make an exit which is where the goat’s rectangular eyes come in. These enable a panoramic vision which can detect intruders approaching from various directions.

The horizontal pupils also enhance the image quality of objects directly ahead of the animal. This clear front-image helps guide rapid locomotion over a potentially rough terrain, the researchers noted in Science Advances.

Grazing animals like goats also rotate their eyes when they bow their heads down so their eye slits are parallel to the ground at all times. They can rotate more than 50 degrees per eyes or 10 times more than the human eye. This way, even when they’re grazing, goats can always keep a good eye on the world and lurking predators.

Rectangular pupils are typically employed by equines and ruminants, such as sheep, deer, and horses.

The last bucardo living specimen, Celia, died in 2000. She can now be seen at the reception centre of the National Park of Ordesa and Monte Perdido in Aragon.

Scientists receive funding to clone extinct goat

The last bucardo living specimen, Celia, died in 2000. She can now be seen at the reception centre of the National Park of Ordesa and Monte Perdido in Aragon.

The last bucardo living specimen, Celia, died in 2000. She can now be seen at the reception centre of the National Park of Ordesa and Monte Perdido in Aragon.

The bucardo, a mountain goat perfectly adapted for life in the  extreme cold and snow of winter in the Pyrenees, became extinct in 2000. From the last living specimen, a goat called Celia, researchers managed to harvest living cells and store them in liquid nitrogen. Using these cells, Spanish researchers now plan to de-extinct the species by cloning it.

This is not the first effort of its kind to de-extinct the bucardo. In 2003, Spanish researchers inject nuclei from Celia’s preserved cells into goat eggs that had been emptied of their own DNA. These eggs were implanted into 57 surrogate goat mothers of a related species, seven of which became pregnant. Only one calf was brought to term, which unfortunately died shortly after birth due to lung complications. Still, the project marked the first de-extinction success, despite the cloned calf’s death.

Now, the Aragon Hunting Federation signed an agreement with the Centre for Research and Food Technology of Aragon (CITA) in Zaragoza to revive these efforts. For now, the team led by Dr. Alberto Fernandez-Arias will focus on studying whether or not the 14 year-old frozen cells from Celia are still alive and suitable for in vitro implants.

“In this process, one or more live female bucardo clones could be obtained. If that is the case, the feasibility of a bucardo recovery plan will be discussed,” Dr Fernandez-Arias, who is head of the Aragon Hunting, Fishing and Wetlands Service, explained.

Even if the researchers manage to use Celia’s cells, they’ll have their work cut out for. First of all, imagine it’s not like cloning any kind of animal. We’re talking about an extinct species after all and it gets even more complicated considering the only cells the researchers have at their disposal are coming from only one female. One solution could be to cross the resulting cloned animal with closely related sub-species – such as the Spanish ibex (Capra pyrenaica hispanica) or the Gredos ibex (Capra pyrenaica victoriae). But will these animals be bucardos afterward? Well, the scientists hope they can genetically select specific traits later on such that they might come up with an organism as closely matching the original bucardo as possible.


Some other solutions are being discussed as well. For instance, it was shown before that it is possible to reverse the sex of female mouse embryos and breed males. This doesn’t quite solve the problem of genetic diversity. Crossing individuals with more or less the same genetic mark-up breeds vulnerable specimens prone to disease. A technique called Crispr could solve this problem and open up a whole new range of possibilities for both de-extinction and conservation efforts of extremely endangered species.

Crispr allows extremely precise genome editing, meaning scientists could closely select certain genes and create diversity.

“In some cases, you have a hunch as to what diversity is needed. You might specifically want diversity in the major histocompatibility complex [a large gene family involved in immune responses],” said George Church, professor of genetics at Harvard University.

“For example, part of the problem with the Tasmanian devil is that they are so closely related in terms of their immune system that they have problems rejecting the facial tumour cells that they spread by biting each other.”

Ultimately, the same technique could be used to edit the genome of an Asian elephant to act as a surrogate for a mammoth – the greatest de-extinction dream so far.