MessageToEagle.com – ‘Frozen Ark’ is a British-led project, which is preserving the DNA of endangered species before they disappear due to the so-called the sixth mass extinction On Earth.
‘Many of these species are going to go extinct before we even know they exist,’ said John Armour, Professor of Human Genetics at the University of Nottingham, which is host to the project.
‘The whole idea of the Frozen Ark is to get and preserve that material for future generations before it’s too late.’
The animals may have walked into Noah’s Ark two-by-two in biblical tales, but nowadays these ‘arks’ are much more hi-tech.
Scientists have set up a project to preserve the DNA of endangered species before they disappear as the Earth undergoes what experts are calling the sixth mass extinction,’ Daily Mail reports.
So far, 48,000 samples have been collected belonging to 5,000 species including the Siberian tiger and the Amur leopard.
Launched a little over a decade ago by British scientists Bryan Clarke, who died last year, and his wife Ann, the Frozen Ark network now has 22 partners worldwide.
Based in Nottingham, some of the 705 samples are on special cards to keep DNA at room temperature and others are in a freezer at -80 °C (-111 °F), including samples of a Siberian tiger and an Amur leopard.
Many conservationists see the project as defeatist, said Professor Ed Louis, a trustee of the Frozen Ark.
‘Their attitude is that we should be putting every effort into saving the endangered species. The fact is that it’s impractical and impossible,’ he said.
‘We’re not there to replace the efforts to save, it’s a backup. It can hopefully save the genetic heritage of just about everything.’
Clarke was inspired to begin his modern-day Noah’s Ark when he heard about the extinction of a small snail – the Partula – unique to Tahiti.
The snail was destroyed by the introduction of a carnivorous snail intended to eradicate another invasive molluscs.
By collecting Partula snails in his laboratory and sending them to several zoos around the world, Dr Clarke was able to preserve some of the species and a re-introduction is now being tested.
‘We looked at each other one day and thought people must be doing this for other endangered species,’ Frozen Ark co-founder Ann Clarke recalled.
‘But there was nothing for the whole fauna, and particularly not for the invertebrates, which are very important even if not as charismatic as the vertebrates.’
‘Everything depends on the invertebrates. ‘If the invertebrates go down, we’re going down too,’ she said.
So many species are in such rapid decline that scientists said the Earth’s sixth great extinction is under way.
The last mass extinction event, which killed off the dinosaurs, occurred 65 million years ago.
The book ‘The Sixth Extinction’ by journalist Elizabeth Kolbert sets out how the die-off has been caused by human activity and climate change, with life in the oceans particularly affected.
Its predictions are frightening.
For example, coral reefs, which are home to over a quarter of all marine species, could disappear by 2050.
About 41 per cent of amphibians and 26 of mammal species are threatened with extinction, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
By storing genetic material, scientists will have a wealth of information after species have disappeared, which would lead to the development of new drugs.
‘We are in an age where antibiotics are soon not going to work. ‘Amphibian skin is covered with small molecules that kill off bacteria. A solution to an age where antibiotics no longer work could come from altering the molecules that come from that,’ Professor Louis said.
But the project could go further.
Professor Armour said: ‘The most extreme positive use of it would be de-extinction, where you would use that material as the basis to recreate the organism from its genetic information.’
But for now, the idea is out of reach.
‘Some people say ‘you’re playing God’ and I always answer that this is for future generations to decide what to do with it when the techniques are available,’ said Ann Clarke.
‘If you don’t get it stored, there will be no choice.’
source: Daily Mail