Scientists debate promise, peril of tweaking wild genomes

J. Zamora,  Phys Org,  2021.

In the movie Jurassic Park, reconstructing and tweaking genetic material makes it possible to bring dinosaurs back to life. Today, a technology that manipulates animal genomes, called gene drive, has become a reality. The goal, however, is not to revive long-gone species, but to eliminate invasive ones. Steven Spielberg’s film was set on an imaginary island off the coast of Costa Rica, and it is also on an island that the first open-air experiments in programmed extinction could take place, according to experts gathered at the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Congress in Marseille. It could happen within a decade, they told AFP. That’s because fragile island ecosystems are in crisis. Dozens of vertebrate species have vanished in the last century, and dozens more are on a glide path to extinction. The culprits are non-native rats, snakes and mosquitoes—all introduced by humans, for the most part by accident—that eat bird eggs, infect birds with disease, or outcompete indigenous amphibians and mammals.

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