How To Revive the Dead

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If you're like us, you are so over bobbing for apples. Instead, why not try having some real fun this Halloween? We suggest scaring small children, egging your boss' house, or bringing deceased creatures back to the land of the living.

YOU WILL NEED
1 extinct species (preferably herbivorous, just in case)
Its modern, surviving relatives
20-odd years of careful breeding

Ever since things went horribly wrong in Jurassic Park, mankind has carefully pondered the ethical and biological dilemmas of reviving extinct species and thought, "Hey, I could do better than that." And, sure enough, over the past 10 years, Michael Crichton-esque cloning experiments have popped up like gophers all around the world. Currently, teams of researchers are attempting to replicate the Tasmanian Thylacine (a dog-like marsupial) and the Spanish Bucardo Mountain Goat (the last of which was smushed by a falling tree in 2000). There was even a failed attempt to resurrect the Wooly Mammoth.

However, there are several problems with these experiments. For one thing, ancient (read: cool) animals like the mammoth don't have enough intact DNA to clone, so you're pretty much limited to saving the Bucardo goats of the world. For another, clones are notoriously unstable. In 2000 an Iowan cow successfully gave birth to the clone of an endangered Asian Guar Ox—only to see the calf die from illness a few days later. And clones, being clones, can't breed with themselves; so you can't really revive a whole species, just an individual. But, a group of dedicated scientists in South Africa may have found a way around these dead ends—at least for one long-gone subspecies.

The quagga—an animal resembling a cross between a zebra and a horse—died out in the late 1800s after several decades of over-zealous hunting. Long thought to be a distinct species, the quagga was outed as a cousin of the Plains Zebra by taxidermist Reinhold Rau, who tested fragments of quagga DNA in the early 1980s. Rau realized that if the quagga had originally evolved from the Plains Zebra naturally, he might be able to replicate the subspecies through selective breeding today. In 1987, he launched the Quagga Project, an organization that tracked down Plains Zebras with quagga-like traits and began breeding the animals in the Karoo National Park, the quagga's ancestral home. By 2005, the Project had succeeded in producing Henry, a light-brown baby zebra whose stripes fade out around the middle of his body.

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October 31, 2006 - 9:08am
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