Teaching Evolution

A blog devoted to teaching evolution, both in our schools and in our communities.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Can You Revive an Extinct Animal?

The quagga was a zebra-like species that went extinct in 1883. The front half of its body was striped like a zebra's, but the back half was brown with no stripes. Here's a picture.

This New York Times Magazine article reports on a movement to bring the quagga out of extinction. No, this isn't a Jurassic Park-type idea; that wouldn't work because DNA breaks down too quickly to take the remains of a dead animal and clone it. What the Quagga Project wants to do is take the Plains Zebra, the quagga's closest relative, and breed specimins that have similar traits to the quagga. They've only done it for three generations, but they've already made progress.

However, I really don't buy that they'd be creating anything more than a zebra that looks like a quagga. Still, this raises some fascinating questions of whether we can recreate natural selection in a lab.

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