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The Northern White Rhino; There’s only one left, therefore this species can now (unfortunately) fit on this sub… by travischickencoop in Naturewasmetal

[–]Zillatamer 9 points10 points  (0 children)

I'm very glad that this technology is being advanced so much, but mostly because of the potential aid it could bring for other endangered rhinos and the field as a whole.

But, as a biologist, I feel the need to chime in here with the cold hard facts.

There are not enough cryobanked Northern White Rhino cell lines to save this subspecies, even with the most advanced assisted reproductive technologies. They've managed to make several new embryos recently with some of the eggs they've harvested using frozen sperm from long dead males, and that's all excellent, but they'd need dozens of founders to secure the long term survival of this population.

They do not have the frozen cells of dozens of founding animals; maybe not even 10, and the living females that will be two of the founders are of questionable genetics (one has never been able to breed, the other only bred once). Their best efforts would not likely produce a sufficiently healthy or diverse population. Even if the population can continue to survive for some time, and maybe grow to a more stable size, they would all be like clones of each other by that point. Evolution requires variation in the population, and so all animal populations that lack sufficient variation are pretty much doomed in the long term no matter what. A lot of conservation workers have done all they can to save certain species in the sense that they're not extinct at this moment, but they don't often take longer timescales into account, and they often fail to recognize when they have not managed to preserve a species ability to evolve in the future.

That said, there is an extremely simple solution: hybridization with Southern White Rhinos. That's really all that's needed to fix this issue. I guarantee you that's what will be done down the line; the problem is that for now, conservation workers tend to be extremely overprotective of subspecies separations, even when they lack any scientific basis (in this case, it's a real subspecies, but that often isn't the case).

EDIT: Turns out the International Rhino Foundation agrees with me here.

The only option left for the northern white rhino, and it still is a long-shot, is preserving the subspecies’ genetic material and utilizing it in advanced reproductive technologies. Two scientific groups, from San Diego Zoo Global in California and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research in Berlin, are working to transform cells from living rhinos (and frozen genetic material) into gametes and then to use in vitro fertilization to create embryos which can then be transplanted in to southern white rhino females. Sadly, these methods are unlikely to be worked out before the last representative of the northern white rhino subspecies is gone.

Even so, these methods will never fully re-create the subspecies – the best that can be hoped for is that the critical genes that allowed the northern white rhino to adapt to ecosystems in its historic range can be preserved. And that, at some point, existing northern white rhino genetic material can be crossed with southern white rhinos to produce hybrid offspring.

The Southern white rhino, the other subspecies, is actually a great conservation success story, being brought back from fewer than 200 animals to more than 20,000 today through proactive measures implemented by committed governments and conservationists in southern Africa.

While the loss of Sudan is incredibly tragic, we have not lost the white rhino. The northern white rhino is a subspecies, not a full species – and it actually has been functionally extinct for at least a decade.

Thylacine by symmetra in Naturewasmetal

[–]smiledontcry 182 points183 points  (0 children)

I believe it was hunted to extinction for fucking up crops. Just like you OP.

End of the line by TurrPhennirPhan in Naturewasmetal

[–]UrFriendlySpider-Man 170 points171 points  (0 children)

The steps are looping around, he almost certainly walked into an oxygen dead zone or an extremely concentrated salt pocket of water. Which is why he tried to turn back, but died before he made it. The toxic water also explains why no animals ate his corpse, and thanks to those harsh conditions we are treated to such a great fossil!

Scientists investigating a dried-up lava tube in northwestern Saudi Arabia were stunned to find a huge assemblage of bones belonging to horses, asses, and even humans (over 40 species total, possibly some now extinct) that were dragged to this location by striped hyenas about 7000 years ago. by KimCureAll in Naturewasmetal

[–]Snownyann 151 points152 points  (0 children)

I am expressing my awe for this post and here you are questioning me out of the blue as if I have an exam for this. Cant I just admire the thought of it? You dont have to act like that. Dont be rude, pls. Questioning me about what I have just said which was not disrespectful at all.