Corporate Banner
Satellite Banner
Scientific Community
Become a Member | Sign in
Home>News>This Article

Using Genes to Rescue Animal and Plants from Extinction

Published: Friday, September 27, 2013
Last Updated: Friday, September 27, 2013
Bookmark and Share
With estimates of losing 15 to 40 percent of the world’s species over the next four decades researchers whether science should employ genetic engineering to the rescue.

The technique would involve “rescuing a target population or species with adaptive alleles, or gene variants, using genetic engineering,” write Josh Donlan, Cornell visiting fellow in ecology and evolutionary biology, and his colleagues. The method is “an increasingly viable … option, which we call ‘facilitated adaptation,’ [but it] has been little discussed,” they add.

To avert mass extinctions, the group thinks that three options, each with its own set of challenges, complications and risks, exist. They are:
•    Animals or plants could be crossed with individuals of the same species from better-adapted populations to introduce adapted alleles into threatened animal or plant populations.
•    Direct transfers from populations with adapted genomes could be introduced into the threatened populations of the same species.
•    Genes from a well-adapted species could be incorporated into the genomes of endangered species.

The Nature commentary draws from a recent National Science Foundation-funded workshop, “Ecological and Genomic Exploration of Environmental Change,” in March, where scientists met to understand issues surrounding climate change adaptation. In those spirited discussions, a hot question emerged: Is managed relocation of animal and plant species really the only approach to averting extinction? Instead of moving plant and animal populations, could genes be moved into populations? “Thus, the term ‘facilitated adaptation’ was born,” said Donlan.

Averting climate change altogether would be a preferable – albeit unlikely – outcome. The scientists fear that implementing genetic solutions could potentially deter other climate change action.
“A serious concern is that even the possibility of using genetic-engineering tools to rescue biodiversity will encourage inaction with regard to climate change. Before genetic engineering can be seriously entertained as a tool for preserving biodiversity, conservationists need to agree on the types of scenario for which facilitated adaptation, managed relocation and other adaptation strategies might be appropriate, and where such strategies are likely to fail or introduce more serious problems,” they write.

Joining Donlan on the Nature commentary, “Gene Tweaking for Conservation,” are Michael A. Thomas, Idaho State University, first and corresponding author; Gary W. Roemer, New Mexico State University, Las Cruces, N.M.; Brett G. Dickson, Conservation Science Partners, Truckee, Calif.; and Marjorie Matocq and Jason Malaney, University of Nevada, Reno. Donlan is also executive director of the Advanced Conservation Strategies, Midway, Utah.

Further Information
Access to this exclusive content is for Technology Networks Premium members only.

Join Technology Networks Premium for free access to:

  • Exclusive articles
  • Presentations from international conferences
  • Over 2,600+ scientific posters on ePosters
  • More than 3,800+ scientific videos on LabTube
  • 35 community eNewsletters

Sign In

Forgotten your details? Click Here
If you are not a member you can join here

*Please note: By logging into you agree to accept the use of cookies. To find out more about the cookies we use and how to delete them, see our privacy policy.

Related Content

$5.5M NSF Grant Aims to Improve Rice Crops with Genome Editing
Researchers to precisely target, cut, remove and replace DNA in a living cell to improve rice.
Friday, May 08, 2015
Genetics Used to Improve Plants for Bioenergy
An upcoming genetics investigation into the symbiotic association between soil fungi and feedstock plants for bioenergy production could lead to more efficient uptake of nutrients, which would help limit the need for expensive and polluting fertilizers.
Thursday, August 28, 2014
Pest Attacks Can Lead to Bigger Crop Yields
New project receive three-year funding of $498,000 from USDA.
Thursday, June 26, 2014
Algal Genes May Boost Efficiency, Yield in Staple Crops
New research has taken a step toward employing genes from blue-green algae to improve staple crop photosynthesis.
Wednesday, May 21, 2014
Study to Focus on Rice Genes, Yield and Climate
Cornell researchers received a $600,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to study relationships among rice genetics, crop yields and climate.
Thursday, May 01, 2014
New Alfalfa Variety Resists Ravenous Local Pest
The new variety has some resistance against the alfalfa snout beetle which has ravaged alfalfa fields.
Monday, April 28, 2014
Predators Delay Pest Resistance to Bt Crops
Crops genetically modified with the bacterium Bt(Bacillus thuringiensis) produce proteins that kill pest insects.
Monday, March 10, 2014
Shark, Human Proteins are Surprisingly Similar
Despite widespread fascination with sharks, the world’s oldest ocean predators have long been a genetic mystery.
Friday, December 06, 2013
Surprises Discovered in Decoded Kiwifruit Genome
DNA sequence of the kiwifruit has many genetic similarities between its 39,040 genes and other plant species, including potatoes and tomatoes.
Tuesday, October 22, 2013
Produce Perfect: Biotech Sweet Corn goes Unblemished
With the kernel-loving earworm, producing unblemished ears of sweet corn is difficult.
Monday, October 14, 2013
New Micro Water Sensor Can Aid Growers
Crop growers, wine grape and other fruit growers, food processors and even concrete makers all benefit from water sensors for accurate, steady and numerous moisture readings.
Monday, October 14, 2013
Partnership Homes in on Regenerative Medicine
Scientists are to advance healing techniques and technologies for animals and humans.
Friday, October 04, 2013
Senator to Tout Cornell Food Safety, Dairy Expertise to Feds
Cornell University is positioned to be a national center of excellence in dairy and food safety.
Monday, September 09, 2013
'Fountain of Youth’ for Leaves Discovered
A team has identified an enzymatic fountain of youth that slows the process of leaf death.
Friday, August 23, 2013
Greening Manure Could Yield Fly Larvae Fit for a Meal
Two negatives – cow manure and flies – can make a positive.
Tuesday, August 13, 2013
Scientific News
Ancestors of Land Plants Were Wired to Make the Leap to Shore
When the algal ancestor of modern land plants made the transition from aquatic environments to an inhospitable shore 450 million years ago, it changed the world by dramatically altering climate and setting the stage for the vast array of terrestrial life.
Photosynthesis Gene Could Help Crops Grow in Adverse Conditions
A gene that helps plants to remain healthy during times of stress has been identified by researchers at Oxford University.
Pancreatic Cancer Stem Cells Could be "Suffocated" by Anti-diabetic Drug
A new study shows that pancreatic cancer stem cells (PancSCs) are virtually addicted to oxygen-based metabolism, and could be “suffocated” with a drug already used to treat diabetes.
Scientists Learn How to Predict Plant Size
VIB and UGent scientists have developed a new method which allows them to predict the final size of a plant while it is still a seedling.
Scientists Home In On Origin Of Human, Chimpanzee Facial Differences
A study of species-specific regulation of gene expression in chimps and humans has identified regions important in human facial development and variation.
Nanoporous Gold Sponge Makes Pathogen Detector
Sponge-like nanoporous gold could be key to new devices to detect disease-causing agents in humans and plants, according to UC Davis researchers.
Genetic Manipulation for Algal Biofuel Production
Studies of the genes involved in oil synthesis in microalgae allow scientists to use a gene promoter to increase algal production of triacylglycerols, which in turn enhances potential biofuel yields.
Phosphorous Fertilizer
UD researchers identify behaviors of nanoparticle that shows promise as nanofertilizer.
Marijuana Genome Unraveled
A study by Canadian researchers is providing a clearer picture of the evolutionary history and genetic organization of cannabis, a step that could have agricultural, medical and legal implications for this valuable crop.
Grape Waste Could Make Competitive Biofuel
The solid waste left over from wine-making could make a competitive biofuel, University of Adelaide researchers have found.
Skyscraper Banner

Skyscraper Banner
Go to LabTube
Go to eposters
Access to the latest scientific news
Exclusive articles
Upload and share your posters on ePosters
Latest presentations and webinars
View a library of 1,800+ scientific and medical posters
2,600+ scientific and medical posters
A library of 2,500+ scientific videos on LabTube
3,800+ scientific videos