UCSB Scientists Create Guidelines for Resurrecting Extinct Species

Aug 29, 2016

The woolly mammoth and other extinct animals may someday be brought back to life, and UC Santa Barbara scientists are thinking about how to make de-extinction more ecologically responsible.

It may be just a matter of time before genetic engineering and cloning are used to resurrect extinct species.

“We want to make sure that it works in a way that doesn’t make curiosities for zoos but a way that does something that is meaningful and healthy for ecosystems,” UCSB assistant professor Douglas McCauley said.

He and three other conservation ecologists came up with guidelines recently published in the journal Functional Ecology: Choose species that 1) went extinct recently, 2) that are truly ecologically unique and 3) that you can bring back to abundance levels.

"We want it to be making species that actually recover an important lost ecological role and they can bring that role back to life,” he said.

Resurrecting the wooly mammoth would be cool, but McCaully says other less interesting animals meet the criteria, like the Christmas Island bat and the lesser stick-nest rat.