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Preserve Species by Changing their Genetic Structure
#1
Bug  This is post no. 1 under the main topic.
A study on how the scientists are trying to preserve species by altering their Genetic Structure.

In the Mojave Desert in the U.S. state of Nevada, a few hundred meters above the famous Valley of Death, in a small underwater, probably the most endangered species of fish in the world has found its home. It is a silver-blue fish smaller than your smallest finger which came after millions of years of evolution to the edge of extinction. By unusual set of circumstances Cyprinodon species Diabolis (The Devils Hole Pupfish)is today reduced to only 75 living specimens.

The Cause of The Problem

Interestingly, the greatest threat to the survival of this species comes from a rather unexpected place - its DNA. In the past, these fish lived in a relatively large lake. About 20,000 years ago, the water level in the lake dropped very quickly, the landscape began to resemble the desert and the unfortunate fish found itself trapped in small physically separated lakes. So now there are nine different types of this fish, of which at least half are at the edge of extinction. The hardest case is the type of Cyprinodon Diabolis. Its population in September this year dropped to only 75 living members. Thousands of years of evolution made this fish capable of living in a very specific environment, to survive she needs water heated at thirty degrees Celsius, low oxygen saturation and a shallow part of the lake into which they retreat in the spawning season. Being an endangered species is already difficult enough, but to be an endangered species and at the same time picky regarding conditions in the environment is a totally new level of threat.

The Bad Luck

But that's not all. Besides being compromised and picky, this type of fish is followed by bad luck. In the early seventies of the last century American biologists have built three artificial lakes in which they tried to grow the backup fish from Devil's Cave (the location where the fish are located), to save them from collapse. Valves and other mechanical components cluttered up almost daily, and most of the fish died. When we say that this is a bad luck, then we really mean it, after completed repairs remaining fish were killed by a lightning strike that destroyed a generator for electricity, and that allowed the maintenance of very specific conditions in which this little fish could survive.

However, luck smiled to the fish that were in the third lake named Point of Rocks. Specifically, in this isolated population has somehow got the other related species of small fish and its DNA soon spread through the population like a wildfire. After about 50 years, every fish that was in the lake was a descendant of "intruders" who is who knows by what combination of circumstances made it into the lake. Scientists are able to very easily conclude this, as the hybrids between the two species had one pair of gills more than original type which they had tried to preserve. After some time, biologists who worked on the project, decided to move the fish into the hatchery. Unlike Cyprinodon Diabolis, which this facility led to the edge of extinction, a new hybrid species has simply exploded. "Huge aquariums we had were filled with new fish in very short time from top to bottom. Just a few decades ago, this species was dying, and now it suddenly experiences an unexpected increase of the population, "says Andy Martin, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Colorado, head of the group of scientists who investigated the specificity of DNA in a new hybrid species.

For Martin, this fact was clear evidence of what went wrong with the species Cyprinodon Diabolis – It was a genetic mutation. On the positive side, now that the diagnosis is finally established, there is a hope is that it is possible to find a drug that could save this fish. Martin claims to have a plan to rescue "the devil fish” from collapse, but for all those people who have in the past engaged in saving the various species from extinction, this idea probably will sound like a heresy tough.

The New Logic

For many years, scientists who were trying to preserve plant and animal species kept the same simple logic: it is necessary to protect the species X, as it existed at the time Y, in the place Z. Of course, evolution does not know the logic of this type, and changing is the only thing we can expect in all living beings on the planet. And here we come to Martin's heretical idea - he thinks that, in this case, the solution is not the preservation of species X as it was at the point Z, but the "breeding" of X species genes which would enable it to do what the evolution didn’t – the change. In other words, Martin wants to enrich this endangered species with the genes of her cousins - the type Cyprinodon nevadensis. those species have the common ancestor, and, interestingly, they live in small lakes just a few kilometers away. Martin's idea is pretty simple - throw a few individuals Cyprinodon nevadensis in the lake with the remaining 75 Diabolis and - wait. These few intruders would probably allow endangered species to stop spreading defective genes, says Martin. By the introduction of new genetic material this species could be saved, but the question is whether the individuals that survive could still be considered the same species.

This way, the small fish from the Mojave Desert have made us think about the one originally philosophical question of our relationship to the nature. It is already clear that we are likely to encounter in the future a variety of other endangered species, and the way we treat the problem of fish from Devil's Valley could become a precedent for all future cases. Scientists involved in the preservation of animal species therefore could become architects of the completely new ecosystem. Approach they have used until now was restricted to the exclusion of individuals from the wild and maintaining them in controlled and less risky conditions. But with this new approach, scientists will by manipulating the genome, practically create new species, which will contain smaller or larger fragments of those species they have tried to preserve. The idea is definitely controversial and Martin currently doesn’t have the support of the institution he is employed in. However, around the world there are a lot of endangered species and some are already preserved from extinction in a manner similar to that advocated by Martin.

References:
Written by Sasa (sale0303)
 
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#2
This is post no. 2 under the main topic.
[quote='Charles' pid='2706' dateline='1357617134']
A study on how the scientists are trying to preserve species by altering their Genetic Structure.

In the Mojave Desert in the U.S. state of Nevada, a few hundred meters above the famous Valley of Death, in a small underwater, probably the most endangered species of fish in the world has found its home. It is a silver-blue fish smaller than your smallest finger which came after millions of years of evolution to the nature...................

Dear Charles,

I always love to read on topics related to "preservation of endangered species". Endangered species is one of my favorite topic.
Your article is really interesting and it gives valuable information on "how
genetic alteration can lead to survival of species".........
I appreciate and thank you for starting a post on this interesting topic.


Another such method of preserving the endangered species is Captive breeding. It is a process of breeding animals in human controlled environments with restricted settings including restricted entries. These controlled environments are either wildlife reserves, zoos or other suitable facilities which can positively help in conservation. No-doubt, such program helps in successful preservation of many endangered species. Few living examples include successful breeding of cheetahs in which the survival from 1 to 12 months and greater than 12 months of age was 72 and 67 % respectively. This program was established between the de Wildt Cheetah and Wildlife centre in which 242 litters were born with a total of around 780 cubs.
Another successful example is of wild Tasmanian devils breeding. As there is no wild Tasmanian devils female left their survival relied solely on captive breeding and its new generations.
Though captive breeding is continuously adding new names to its success list, but at the same time, it has some limitations/drawbacks.
With captive breeding, genetic diversity is reduced and is obvious due to limited gene pool. But this is a good strategy to save animals rather than completely going their number down to zero. Another drawback is that it also reduces species fitness (Due to weak immune system and declining wild type characteristics).
In spite of these drawbacks, today captive breeding is a great program which is helping in preservation of many endangered species, without which, today we would have missed many species from our planet, forever!
I believe, today we would have seen living dinosaurs, if programs like captive breeding or similar such other would have been there during either Triassic, Jurassic or Cretaceous period !

Thanks you Charles for starting such interesting post !
 
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#3
This is post no. 3 under the main topic.
Thanks ExpertScience. Being the author of this article, Charles requested me to post a reply to this thread. I'm very glad you like the post as that is the field I also enjoy to explore.
All the best!
 
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#4
This is post no. 4 under the main topic.
Revival of the species

Another way of preserving the species is actually by reviving them. There is a lot of controversy around this - some people are saying that the resources spent into the revival of species can actually be spent into protecting the existing ones that are endangered, especially since the “reviving” is a lot more demanding process. Moreover, some of the species died due to the loss of their living habitat, which still wasn’t recovered, and the whole project could be in vain.

However, the idea sounds great and interesting nonetheless, because if the project of reviving is successful, not only we might see some recently extinct species like passenger pigeons, but we might see some ancient ones like mammoths. Yes, mammoths…

One way of reviving the species is by cloning them. There are several ways to do this, but basically the DNA of an extinct species must be isolated from what they’ve left (like frozen tissues, for example). The next thing is to insert the DNA into the cells of closest living relatives which will be surrogate parents. If the whole nucleus of an extinct species is found, we can completely replace it with the one in the egg. However, if there are only the pieces of DNA, they can be replaced with the ones in the existing genomes. This might produce species similar to the one that is extinct but not 100% the same. It should suffice though, because we are talking about revival.

Important thing to note is that enough number of organisms should be cloned in the start from different pieces of the extinct animal’s DNA in order to make a viable population.

Cloning is not the only way revival could be achieved – selective breading might also do the trick. In the case of aurochs, the ancestor of domestic cattle, its traits could be determined by taking the sample of its tissues, and then existing cattle might be selectively bread in order to “accumulate” the traits of extinct animal in small group of individuals. This way, every new generation would be more similar to aurochs.
 
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#5
This is post no. 5 under the main topic.
Revival of the species – The Beginning

The animal revival has actually already been done. In 2003, a group of Spanish and French scientists have revived a goat bucardo that lived in the Pyrenees. It was extensively hunted for couple of centuries and there was only a dozen or so of them left during the end of 1980s. The last species, female named Celia, died around 2000. Scientists preserved her cells, however, and have tried to revive her.

The way they have done this is by injecting the nuclei from the Celia’s cells into the goat eggs that have previously been emptied from their own DNA. These new, hybrid eggs have been injected into the surrogate mothers later on. Out of 57 implantations, only seven goats have become pregnant and six of these had a miscarriage. However, one goat remained pregnant and it gave birth by C-section. The newborn died, however, some 10 minutes later due to the breathing failure.

This does not stop scientists from thinking about doing it again, though. Many popular species have been extinct and their revival would mean a lot to science as their study could bring some new discoveries. Especially since the technology has improved tremendously since the goat Celia. The knowledge of animal cloning has been expanded a lot. The way Celia has been “revived” is now old-fashioned; today, we have the ability to make adult animal cells return into an embryo-like state, which can then develop into any cell type, including sperm or eggs. Embryos can be made from these by further genetic manipulation.

Another revival is in the progress, called the Lazarus project. Scientists working here are trying to revive the extinct species of frog with the unique way of breeding (female swallows the eggs once they have been fertilized by the male). In order to revive this species, scientists are using their relatives – Australian marsh frogs. They will insert the target nuclei into the eggs that have previously been emptied from the genetic material. The problem is that it is a very slow process, as new, fresh eggs are constantly needed and they are hard to come by. However, the embryos of extinct frog actually exist now, which means that the whole project might actually be successful.
 
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#6
This is post no. 6 under the main topic.
Revival of the species – Passenger Pigeon

Project “Revive & Restore” from Long Now foundation is all about de-extinction. Their first goal is to revive the famous passenger pigeon, which has been extinct for almost a century, now. It was really a great bird living in North America. There were around 5 billion of them when Europeans arrived there. Their flocks were sometimes long for several hundreds of kilometers and around one kilometer wide. The last known passenger pigeon was named Martha, and it died on September 1, 1914, in Cincinnati Zoo.

There were two main reasons for their extinction – they were hunted a lot, plus their natural habitat, the forest, was decreasing due to the expansion of cities and advancements in industry.

Reviving the passenger pigeon requires different approach due to several problems. The biggest one is the fact that there is no completely intact, functional genome. This could be solved by re-creating the genome - connecting the fragments of DNA from preserved specimens. It won’t be enough, however, since entire genome of an animal cannot be synthesized from scratch. It can be combined with another animal’s genome, though. Traits specific to passenger pigeon can be replaced with the other ones in some relatives, using stem cells.

Rock pigeon genome can be used, for example, and its modified stem cells could be transformed into germ cells, which could be inserted into its eggs. In there, they would move to the embryos’ sex organs. Once the eggs hatch, normal rock pigeons would come out, except that the eggs and the sperm they carry would have the modified DNA containing the passenger pigeon traits. Once the hybrid rock pigeons reach maturity, they could mate and lay eggs that would contain the actual passenger pigeons.

There are some other problems concerning the revival of this species. They are very social, and they tend to form flocks of millions, even billions. They did not stop breading once their numbers went down to several individuals; instead, this happened when there was couple of thousands of them left. This means that probably several thousands of passenger pigeons would first have to be revived in order for them to actually start breeding again.
 
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#7
This is post no. 7 under the main topic.
Revival of the species – Mammoth

Another goal of the Long Now foundation is to revive the mammoth. They have been extinct for some five thousand years now and a lot of scientists would like to see them walk the Earth once more. The first goal was to find the well preserved mammoth tissue in Siberia. Scientists have accomplished this by travelling near the Yana River and drilling into the frozen cliffs where they have found bone marrow, hair, skin and fat of mammoth.

The easiest way to revive the mammoth is by finding a live cell – it could be programmed to divide into millions of cells which could then be modified to grow into embryos. The closest living relatives of mammoth, the elephants, would then have to be used as surrogate parents. The problem with this is that it is really hard to find a living mammoth cell thousands of years old.

Another thing which is more likely to happen is to find an intact nucleus of a mammoth cell. This is a lot harder since it would have to be done the old-fashioned way – the intact nucleus would have to be inserted into the elephant egg cells that have previously been emptied from their own genetic material. If the DNA is good enough, it might start forming a mammoth embryo from the elephant egg cell.

The problems with this method also exist, though. It requires the harvesting of eggs from an elephant, and nobody has done this successfully yet. Moreover, even if the cells start dividing, transplanting the embryo into an elephant’s womb is still demanding by itself. And even if this goes well, bad things could still happen because gestation period of an elephant is around 22 months.
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The revival can actually happen even without the intact nucleus – by combining the pieces of the mammoth’s DNA with the elephant’s genome, which would give rise to either mammoth-related species, or, if done properly, to the mammoth itself.
 
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#8
This is post no. 8 under the main topic.
The way they have done this is by injecting the nuclei from the Celia’s cells into the goat eggs that have previously been emptied from their own DNA. These new, hybrid eggs have been injected into the surrogate mothers later on.
Out of 57 implantations, only seven goats have become pregnant and six of these had a miscarriage. However, one goat remained pregnant and it gave birth by C-section. The newborn died, however, some 10 minutes later due to the breathing failure.
In spite of these drawbacks, today captive breeding is a great program which is helping in preservation of many endangered species, without which, today we would have missed many species from our planet, forever!
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#9
This is post no. 9 under the main topic.
Maybe getting around to using the old nuclear power drill in the Sahara desert underground buried ancient river beds and ecosystems as well as Antarcticas would be prudent at this point.

Imagine the rare genetic treasures one just might find if the cows did not eat them all.
 
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