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Pleistocene Rewilding

Kung Fu Ferret

The Great Dreamer
This debate came up on a Zoo Tycoon 2 forum a while back, and thought I would bring it here.

For those who aren't paleontology buffs, the Pleistocene epoch was a period in Earth's natural history that started two and a half million years ago, and lasted until about 11,000 years ago.

This term does not necessarily mean bringing mammoths and other extinct species back via cloning. (since we don't have the technology and/or resources quite yet)

Basically, Pleistocene rewilding is the idea of intentionally repopulate the plains of North America, along with parts of Siberia, with similar species to those that have died out, thus filling in niches that have been vacant in those areas for millennia. This process would be quite heavily monitored by experts.

Muskox, wild horses, big cats, elephants, caribou, bison, and rhinos, among other large mammals, would fill in these voids in the ecosystem.

A void left by the Miracinonyx (the American cheetah), could be filled by the modern-day African cheetah, as the only animal fast enough to prey on the pronghorn antelope of the American plains.

Our prehistoric ancestors may have been at least partially responsible for the extinction of various megafauna, so I think it's at least worth a chance.

I can understand that some people would be against this rewilding due to the possible dangers of having large animals running around freely in a strange new environment.

Keep in mind that large herbivores such as elephants, for example, disperse seeds (through droppings), and make room for new plant life by knocking down dead trees.

There is a nature reserve in Northeastern Siberia where scientists are trying to recreate an Ice Age ecosystem, in order to prove a hypothesis that overhunting by early man was the reason that many species of Pleistocene megafauna became extinct.

What are your thoughts on this?


Try to understand.
I don't think that the modern ecosystem would except the organisms so easily, especially since the place has been transformed by people.

Also, the damage has been done way back when, and there are supposed gaps that are filled one way or another.

For example, the giant ground sloth originally dispersed the avocado, but then people farmed the latter toward the former's extinction didn't have that much of an impact.

In short, I don't think they would have a good time surviving, and I think that the places they live in have changed outside of their intervention.


Wheel of Time fan
This is a cool thought, but I don't know what good it would do to reintroduce those species now. It it possible the species would fill the niches left by megafauna, but would this ultimately help the American ecosystems or would it just make them different? This reminds me of a scenario I was told about a while back; I'll see if I can remember it properly. When I was in Anthro a few years back, our professor told us about this species of butterfly that proliferated in one special area that, if I recall right, had been built on and lived on. Then it was ordered that the land be given up and fixed up to help the animals in the environment there. Except, once they fixed up the land, several animals no longer fit the niches in this environment, and the butterfly species actually died out.* I would worry about something like that happening if we started trying to reintroduce animals like this.

Extinction happens, and environmental needs and impacts change. It would be neat to have new animals in the U.S, but I don't think it would necessarily be wise.

As a side note, I wrote a paper on the causes for the extinction of megafauna back when I was taking anthropology. It's an interesting topic and one that warrants good discussion. Some of the likely causes found were mass hunting and second-order predation, disease, global warming, and atmospheric imbalance due to meteors and comets. ... but that's a whole other conversation!

* Note that there are also species of butterfly, like the Xerces blue, that have gone extinct because of urban development. Also, I'm trying to find what butterfly or area my professor may have been talking about, but I don't have any further info right now.

Kung Fu Ferret

The Great Dreamer
An argument for, say, cloning the woolly Mammoth, would be to hinder global warming. Mammoths lived in open plains, and since their Extinction, their former stomping grounds became heavily forested. And also, since permafrost is melting faster, the worst type of greenhouse gas, methane, will be released after millennia, causing the planet to become even warmer.


I'm kinda surprised anyone actually pays money for this sort of research.

Here's the 411, real cloning (as in, the way Dolly was cloned) requires a living specimen with a living womb. Dolly was "born" by implanting DNA from a dead sheep in a live, female sheep in a method similar to artificial insemination.

This means, in a nutshell, a Jurassic Park scenario with extinct animals being cloned is impossible, especially when you consider that gene spicing was involved in that scenario. Toads are amphibians, the idea you can splice them with reptile DNA is absurd. (And before anyone says "they're close" on the evolution ladder, humans and chimpanzees are much closer, and we still cannot splice ape and human DNA in such a way to create a specimen.)

Sorry to be a wet blanket here.