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Biology 103
2003 Third Paper
On Serendip

Noah's Ark vs. Jurassic Park

Justine Patrick

As the human population of the world continues to increase the flora and fauna of the planet are becoming an increasingly smaller part of the picture. Environmentalist and conservationists all over the globe are working hard to find strategies and methods for the preservation of disappearing creatures and species. An increasingly popular idea that would allow for great benefits in the field of conservation became apparent in 1996 with the cloning of sheep by the name of Dolly. Since then the scientific debate on the relationship between cloning and conservation has ensued. Although the answer to that question remains on the horizon, cloning for helping endangered species is a process that may become a frequent procedure in the future.

When one thinks of cloning generally the first idea that pops into your mind is a large tube filled with some creature attached to a lot of tubes. Cloning actually, is a much more complicated and difficult process. Cloning, scientifically defined is, "asexual reproduction or as the creation of genetically identical individuals" (1). In the cloning process the DNA of one individual creature is "copied" into the cell, or embryo, of another and then that embryo develops into a baby and proceeds down the process of birth and embryological development. Currently, many scientists believe that if the DNA of endangered species is rescued and preserved that the DNA of that species could undergo the cloning process and thus produce a clone of that species. The results of this cloning process would be enormous or it "will open a new front in the battle to preserve the Earth's biodiversity by cloning endangered gorillas, tigers and other rare species" (2). Cloning of endangered species would be a monumental achievement for the scientific community. Many people when they think of cloning picture sometime weird science fiction creature in a test but in real life the idea of cloning could be a valuable tool for the environmental community and it would be a process could vastly improve the current situation of endangered species.

Part of the reason why the cloning process is so highly revered is because of the level of complexity and the multiple details that must develop accordingly for the process to work. Robert P. Lanza says, "It is a deceptively simple-looking process. A needle jabs through the protective layer surrounding an egg. A research assistant sucks out the egg's nucleus, which contains the majority of a cell's genetic material, leaving behind only a sac of gel called cytoplasm. Another needle is injected and an electric pulse fuses the newly introduced cell to the egg and the early embryo begins to divide. Soon, it will become large enough to move to a surrogate mother" (3). All of these steps must be completely perfect for the introduction of the cloning process. Although the entire process of reproductive physiology and endocrinology are currently unknown, scientists and biologists realize the many other hurdles must be jumped for the success of the cloning process. A statistic about the success of cloning states, "For every 100 eggs that are fused with host cells the expectation is only between 15 and 20 to produce the first step on the cellular level, known as blastocysts. And generally less than a fraction of 10 percent of those yield a single birth... But even in this instance we have to work hard to produce just a few animals" (3). Although the complexity of the cloning process illustrates the difficulty in the actual process of cloning, as reproductive technology and research increase further advances can be projected making cloning a more attractive prospect as a method for the conservation of endangered species.

If the process of cloning is successful there are multiple questions that arise with the induction of a clone. Cloning by definition refers to the copying of one individual and making it another. If a fundamental step in categorizing biological life has having diversity the process of cloning conflicts with this notion. Does that mean instead that cloned animals and species are not living? My answer to this question is no because life is not solely based on diversity although it is an essential aspect in the success of that species. According to the Scientific American, "cloning's main power, however, and is that it allows researchers to introduce new genes back into the gene pool of a species that has few remaining animals" (3). Cloning allows for researchers and scientists to use a certain type of species to improve the numbers of the population. Although the genetic material of the clone may come from one specific subject, it does not dictate all genetic characteristics of that species. There are certain fundamental characteristics in every living thing that is indigenous to that subject although it may have been cloned. In a commentary by Oliver Ryder he suggest, "the application of cloning technology stands to have a long-term benefit of increasing retention of genetic variation in small populations because the consideration of preservation of gene pools is a potentially major aspect of mammalian cloning" (1). He suggests that the cloning of one individual specimen will yield its own diversity although the genetic material is the same. As reproductive technology increases and cloning becomes a strong prospect for the conservation of endangered animals multiple question arise about the loss or lack of diversity that may arrive because of cloning.

The debate on the effectiveness and benefits of cloning when it comes to saving endangered animals is raised in the upbringing of the animal itself. One key factor in the cloning process lies in the actual birth of the animal. After the embryo as grown to a reasonable size it must be moved to a surrogate mother, or another female animal of similar species for the gestation period. In an article by Scientific American it states, " A clone still requires a mother, however very few conservationists advocate rounding up wild female endangered animals for that purpose or subjecting a precious zoo resident of the same species to the rigors of assisted reproduction and surrogate motherhood. That means that to clone an endangered species, researchers such as ourselves, must solve the problem of how to get cells from two different species to yield the clone of one" (3). So, even if the problem of finding a matching surrogate mother is found other questions arise. In an article that supports the cloning process that "If cloning were to become utilized, it would focus attention on the surrogate dams, [mothers], including their behavior. The importance of mother/infant relationships for instance, especially with regard to reinforcing appropriate natural behaviors adaptive to the wild for reintroduction purposes would receive increase scrutiny. The positive side of this is that females that impart desirable behavioral traits to their offspring could do so to genetically unrelated individuals" (1). If the mother of the clone is a different species a possible outcome could be that the clone would behave like the surrogate mother. This leads to the question of nature versus nurture. Does the environment of a specimen dictate its actions or are there certain social biological behavioral characteristics that exhibited by different species because of their biological background. If during the cloning process a panda happens to be raised by a black bear and exhibits the same characteristics as a black bear cub there could be major alterations to the outcome of the cloning process and the success of that clone in years to come. There are successful "interspecies embryo transfers" (3). "An Indian desert cat into a domestic cat; a bongo antelope into a more common African antelope; a mouflon sheep into a domestic sheep and a rare red deer into a common white-tailed deer. All yielded life births" (3). Only time will tell if there is any influence on the behavior of the creatures cloned. After the gestation period the question of the influence of the surrogate mother on the clone's behavior is another question and problem with the cloning process but a successful outcome in both situations can lead to better methods for the survival of endangered species.

Conservationists and scientists continue to support cloning as a method for saving endangered mammilla but during the cloning process the selected specimen may result in a specific gender of the animal. If once the decision to clone a certain animal has been made and there is only one sex represented how does that benefit the success of the species? A solution to this question comes from the Advanced Cell Technology (ACT). It says, "ACT plans to try to make a male by removing one copy of the X chromosome from one of the female specimen's cells and using a tiny artificial cell called a microsome to add a Y chromosome from a closely related species" (3). If this process works Noah's idea of "two by two" (a female and a male) is not necessary. This is genetic engineering of animals can be also considered by some as "playing GOD". But the success of the species resides in the ability for an animal to be able to reproduce, or one of the fundamental steps that is necessary in categorizing biological life.

Cloning as a method of preservation carries into the storage of the genetic material necessary for the beginning of the cloning process which begins with the DNA of the creature being clone. This idea also carries into a popular catch phrase known in the conservationist community as "frozen zoos, or there are cylinders of frozen genes from hundreds of rare plants and animals from around the world used in high-tech efforts to save endangered species and possibly cloning" (2). Scientists would be able to take samples of endangered animal's DNA and cryogenically freeze them until there is an opportunity to use the genetic material to further the success of the species. This sounds similar to a modern day creation of Jurassic Park. There was speculation about possible reintroduction of a 1000 year old wooly mammoth. But, the validity of this statement is limited because of the damaged done to the cells by changing in temperatures of the ice over the years. So, the Jurassic Park idea and the reintroduction of dinosaurs would not be applicable because there are no genes or genetic material that could allow for cloning. Cryogenics is a method that allows for the retention of the DNA necessary for the cloning process, which is a method of preservation for endangered animals.

The world is changing. Animals and the wildlife of the planet are loosing the battle with industrialization. A method to the salvation of these creatures lies in cloning. Cloning is a difficult process with many complicated aspects that are necessary for the success of the procedure. Although many may feel that this is the easy way out of conservation or will change the focus of conservationist the main focus is to allow the continuation of species that without the help of scientist and conservationist would disappear. The combination of the cloning process and an in increase methods for the preservation of the natural habitats will result in a longer lasting legacy and ability for future generations to be able to experience the majesty of the Earth's many diverse endangered species.

Works Cited

1.) Ryder, Oliver A. and Kurt Benrischke. "The Potential Use of "Cloning" in the Conservation Effort." Zoological Society of San Diego 16. (1997): 295-300.

2.) Dan, Fagin "Gene Back Acts as a High-Tech Noah's Ark." Long Island Queens: Our Future. .

3.) Lanza, Robert P. and Betsy L. Dresser and Philip Damiani. "Cloning Noah's Ark." Scientific American 19 (2000). 17 Dec. 2003. .

4.) Smith, Peter T. "Director's Diary: Cloning and Conservation." Concerning Conservation Newsletter 2 (1999). 17 Dec. 2003. .

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