Is it Possible to Bring Back Extinct Animal Species?
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Is it Possible to Bring Back Extinct Animal Species?

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Is it Possible to Bring Back Extinct Animal Species?

View a higher resolution version of this infographic.

Humanity has been tinkering with natural life for thousands of years.

We’ve become remarkably good at it, too—to date, we’ve modified bacteria to produce drugs, created crops with built-in pesticides, and even made a glow-in-the-dark dog.

However, despite our many achievements in the realm of genetic engineering, one thing we’re still working on is bringing extinct animals back to life.

But scientists are working on it. In fact, there’s a whole field of biology that’s focused on reviving extinct species.

This graphic provides a brief introduction to the fascinating field of science known as resurrection biology—or de-extinction.

The Benefits of De-Extinction

First thing’s first—what is the point of bringing back extinct animals?

There are a number of research benefits that come with de-extinction. For instance, some scientists believe studying previously extinct animals and looking at how they function could help fill some gaps in our current theories around evolution.

De-extinction could also have a beneficial impact on the environment. That’s because when an animal goes extinct, its absence has a ripple effect on all the flora and fauna involved in that animal’s food web.

Because of this, reintroducing previously extinct species back into their old ecosystems could help rebalance and restore off-kilter environments.

There’s even a possibility that de-extinction could slow down global warming. Scientist Sergey Zimov believes that, if we were to reintroduce an animal that’s similar to the woolly mammoth back to the tundra, it could help repopulate the area, regrow ancient plains, and possibly slow the melting of the ice caps.

How Does it Work?

The key element that’s needed to re-create a species is its DNA.

Unfortunately, DNA slowly degrades, and once it’s gone completely, there’s no way to recover it. Researchers believe DNA has a half-life of 521 years, so after 6.8 million years, it’s believed to be completely gone.

That’s why species like dinosaurs have virtually no chance of de-extinction. However, many organisms that went extinct more recently, like the dodo, could have a chance of conservation.

When it comes to de-extinction, there are three main techniques:

① Cloning

This is the only way to create an exact DNA replica of something.

However, a complete genome is needed for this, so this form of genetic rescue is most effective with recently-lost species, or species that are nearing extinction.

② Genome Editing

Genome editing is the manipulation of DNA to mimic extinct DNA.

There are several ways to do this, but in general, the process involves researchers manipulating the genomes of living species to make a new species that closely resembles an extinct one.

Because it’s not an exact copy of the extinct species’ DNA, this method will create a hybrid species that only resembles the extinct animal.

③ Back-Breeding

A form of breeding where a distinguishing trait from an extinct species (a horn or a color pattern) is bred back into living populations.

This requires the trait to still exist in some frequency in similar species, and the trait is selectively bred back into popularity.

Like genome editing, this method does not resurrect an extinct species, but resurrects the DNA and genetic diversity that gave the extinct species a distinguishing trait.

Is Bringing Back Extinct Animal Species Really Worth it?

While there’s a ton of buzz and potential around the idea of bringing back extinct animal species, there are a few critics that believe our efforts would be better spent on other things.

Research on the economics of de-extinction found that the money would go farther if it was invested into conservation programs for living species—approximately two to eight times more species could be saved if invested in existing conversation programs.

In an article in Science, Joseph Bennett, a biologist at Carleton University in Ottawa, said “if [a] billionaire is only interested in bringing back a species from the dead, power to him or her.”

Bennett added, “however, if that billionaire is couching it in terms of it being a biodiversity conservation, then that’s disingenuous. There are plenty of species out there on the verge of extinction now that could be saved with the same resources.”

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Demographics

Where Will the World’s Next 1,000 Babies Be Born?

This graphic paints a picture of the world’s population, showing which countries are most likely to welcome the next 1,000 babies.

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Where Will the World’s Next 1,000 Babies Be Born?

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Every four minutes, approximately 1,000 babies are born across the globe. But in which countries are these babies the most statistically likely to come from?

Using data from the CIA World Factbook, this graphic by Pratap Vardhan (Stats of India) paints a picture of the world’s demographics, showing which countries are most likely to welcome the next 1,000 babies based on population and birth rates as of 2022 estimates.

The Next 1,000 Babies, By Country

Considering India has a population of nearly 1.4 billion, it’s fairly unsurprising that it ranks first on the list. Of every 1,000 babies born, the South Asian country accounts for roughly 172 of them.

PlaceRegionBirths Per 1,000 Global Babies
🇮🇳​ IndiaAsia171.62
🇨🇳 ChinaAsia102.84
🇳🇬 NigeriaAfrica56.50
🇵🇰 PakistanAsia47.23
🇨🇩 Congo, Democratic Republic of theAfrica31.90
🇮🇩 IndonesiaAsia31.20
🇺🇸 United StatesAmericas30.42
🇪🇹 EthiopiaAfrica25.44
🇧🇷 BrazilAmericas22.27
🇧🇩 BangladeshAsia21.52
🇵🇭 PhilippinesAsia18.75
🇪🇬 EgyptAfrica16.98
🇹🇿 TanzaniaAfrica15.61
🇺🇬 UgandaAfrica13.89
🇲🇽 MexicoAmericas12.85
🇻🇳 VietnamAsia11.96
🇸🇩 SudanAfrica11.79
🇰🇪 KenyaAfrica10.82
🇦🇴 AngolaAfrica10.68
🇦🇫 AfghanistanAsia9.98
🇷🇺 RussiaEurope9.85
🇮🇷 IranAsia9.73
🇲🇿 MozambiqueAfrica8.72
🇹🇷 TurkeyAsia8.71
🇳🇪 NigerAfrica8.46
🇿🇦 South AfricaAfrica7.84
🇨🇲 CameroonAfrica7.65
🇮🇶 IraqAsia7.34
🇬🇭 GhanaAfrica6.94
🇲🇲 MyanmarAsia6.90
🇯🇵 JapanAsia6.34
🇲🇱 MaliAfrica6.25
🇩🇿 AlgeriaAfrica6.01
🇨🇮 Cote d'IvoireAfrica5.97
🇲🇬 MadagascarAfrica5.93
🇫🇷 FranceEurope5.85
🇩🇪 GermanyEurope5.62
🇾🇪 YemenAsia5.61
🇨🇴 ColombiaAmericas5.48
🇧🇫 Burkina FasoAfrica5.41
🇬🇧 United KingdomEurope5.37
🇹🇩 ChadAfrica5.34
🇦🇷 ArgentinaAmericas5.29
🇹🇭 ThailandAsia5.19
🇿🇲 ZambiaAfrica5.03
🇲🇦 MoroccoAfrica4.70
🇲🇼 MalawiAfrica4.27
🇧🇯 BeninAfrica4.16
🇸🇳 SenegalAfrica4.15
🇵🇪 PeruAmericas4.08
🇳🇵 NepalAsia3.95
🇻🇪 VenezuelaAmericas3.78
🇸🇦 Saudi ArabiaAsia3.69
🇿🇼 ZimbabweAfrica3.67
🇲🇾 MalaysiaAsia3.62
🇸🇾 SyriaAsia3.60
🇺🇿 UzbekistanAsia3.55
🇬🇳 GuineaAfrica3.47
🇸🇴 SomaliaAfrica3.45
🇧🇮 BurundiAfrica3.28
🇸🇸 South SudanAfrica3.19
🇮🇹 ItalyEurope3.12
🇬🇹 GuatemalaAmericas2.90
🇺🇦 UkraineEurope2.88
🇨🇦 CanadaAmericas2.85
🇰🇵 Korea, NorthAsia2.71
🇰🇷 Korea, SouthAsia2.63
🇷🇼 RwandaAfrica2.56
🇪🇸 SpainEurope2.47
🇵🇱 PolandEurope2.38
🇰🇭 CambodiaAsia2.37
🇦🇺 AustraliaOceania2.36
🇱🇰 Sri LankaAsia2.35
🇰🇿 KazakhstanAsia2.19
🇪🇨 EcuadorAmericas2.09
🇸🇱 Sierra LeoneAfrica2.06
🇵🇬 Papua New GuineaOceania2.04
🇹🇬 TogoAfrica1.99
🇯🇴 JordanAsia1.82
🇭🇹 HaitiAmericas1.76
🇨🇱 ChileAmericas1.73
🇧🇴 BoliviaAmericas1.65
🇱🇷 LiberiaAfrica1.44
🇩🇴 Dominican RepublicAmericas1.42
🇳🇱 NetherlandsEurope1.40
🇹🇯 TajikistanAsia1.39
🇨🇫 Central African RepublicAfrica1.31
🇨🇬 Congo, Republic of theAfrica1.30
🇹🇼 TaiwanAsia1.28
🇹🇳 TunisiaAfrica1.28
🇭🇳 HondurasAmericas1.24
🇪🇷 EritreaAfrica1.23
🇷🇴 RomaniaEurope1.19
🇱🇦 LaosAsia1.19
🇮🇱 IsraelAsia1.14
🇱🇾 LibyaAfrica1.13
🇦🇿 AzerbaijanAsia1.03
🇧🇪 BelgiumEurope0.95
🇵🇾 ParaguayAmericas0.88
🇰🇬 KyrgyzstanAsia0.87
🇸🇻 El SalvadorAmericas0.86
🇲🇷 MauritaniaAfrica0.86
🇸🇪 SwedenEurope0.83
🇨🇺 CubaAmericas0.82
🇦🇪 United Arab EmiratesAsia0.79
🇳🇮 NicaraguaAmericas0.76
🇹🇲 TurkmenistanAsia0.72
🇨🇿 CzechiaEurope0.68
🇨🇭 SwitzerlandEurope0.65
🇧🇾 BelarusEurope0.63
🇦🇹 AustriaEurope0.62
🇭🇺 HungaryEurope0.62
🇴🇲 OmanAsia0.61
🇵🇹 PortugalEurope0.60
🇬🇷 GreeceEurope0.59
🇵🇦 PanamaAmericas0.57
🇨🇷 Costa RicaAmericas0.55
🇬🇼 Guinea-BissauAfrica0.54
🇵🇸 West BankAsia0.54
🇬🇲 GambiaAfrica0.51
🇱🇧 LebanonAsia0.51
🇳🇦 NamibiaAfrica0.50
🇳🇴 NorwayEurope0.49
🇩🇰 DenmarkEurope0.49
🇮🇪 IrelandEurope0.48
🇳🇿 New ZealandOceania0.47
🇬🇦 GabonAfrica0.45
🇷🇸 SerbiaEurope0.44
🇭🇰 Hong KongAsia0.43
🇫🇮 FinlandEurope0.43
🇧🇬 BulgariaEurope0.41
🇵🇸 Gaza StripAsia0.41
🇰🇼 KuwaitAsia0.40
🇬🇪 GeorgiaAsia0.40
🇸🇬 SingaporeAsia0.39
🇲🇳 MongoliaAsia0.38
🇱🇸 LesothoAfrica0.37
🇬🇶 Equatorial GuineaAfrica0.37
🇸🇰 SlovakiaEurope0.36
🇧🇼 BotswanaAfrica0.36
🇯🇲 JamaicaAmericas0.33
🇹🇱 Timor-LesteAsia0.33
🇺🇾 UruguayAmericas0.32
🇦🇱 AlbaniaEurope0.29
🇭🇷 CroatiaEurope0.27
🇲🇩 MoldovaEurope0.25
🇦🇲 ArmeniaAsia0.24
🇧🇦 Bosnia and HerzegovinaEurope0.24
🇽🇰 KosovoEurope0.21
🇸🇿 EswatiniAfrica0.19
🇱🇹 LithuaniaEurope0.18
🇵🇷 Puerto RicoAmericas0.18
🇶🇦 QatarAsia0.17
🇲🇰 North MacedoniaEurope0.16
🇩🇯 DjiboutiAfrica0.16
🇰🇲 ComorosAfrica0.14
🇧🇭 BahrainAsia0.14
🇸🇮 SloveniaEurope0.13
🇱🇻 LatviaEurope0.12
🇸🇧 Solomon IslandsOceania0.12
🇫🇯 FijiOceania0.11
🇹🇹 Trinidad and TobagoAmericas0.11
🇧🇹 BhutanAsia0.10
🇨🇾 CyprusAsia0.10
🇬🇾 GuyanaAmericas0.10
🇲🇺 MauritiusAfrica0.09
🇨🇻 Cabo VerdeAfrica0.08
🇪🇪 EstoniaEurope0.08
🇸🇷 SurinameAmericas0.07
🇧🇿 BelizeAmericas0.06
🇧🇳 BruneiAsia0.06
🇱🇺 LuxembourgEurope0.06
🇲🇪 MontenegroEurope0.05
🇻🇺 VanuatuOceania0.05
🇸🇹 Sao Tome and PrincipeAfrica0.04
🇲🇻 MaldivesAsia0.04
🇲🇴 MacauAsia0.04
🇧🇸 Bahamas, TheAmericas0.04
🇮🇸 IcelandEurope0.03
🇲🇹 MaltaEurope0.03
🇳🇨 New CaledoniaOceania0.03
🇵🇫 French PolynesiaOceania0.03
🇼🇸 SamoaOceania0.03
🇧🇧 BarbadosAmericas0.02
🇬🇺 GuamOceania0.02
🇰🇮 KiribatiOceania0.02
🇹🇴 TongaOceania0.02
🇨🇼 CuracaoAmericas0.01
🇱🇨 Saint LuciaAmericas0.01
🇫🇲 Micronesia, Federated States ofOceania0.01
🇲🇭 Marshall IslandsOceania0.01
🇬🇩 GrenadaAmericas0.01
🇦🇬 Antigua and BarbudaAmericas0.01
🇦🇼 ArubaAmericas0.01
🇯🇪 JerseyEurope0.01
🇻🇨 Saint Vincent and the GrenadinesAmericas0.01
🇻🇮 Virgin IslandsAmericas0.01
🇸🇨 SeychellesAfrica0.01
🇩🇲 DominicaAmericas0.01
🇮🇲 Isle of ManEurope0.01
🇧🇲 BermudaAmericas0.01
🇲🇵 Northern Mariana IslandsOceania0.01
🇬🇱 GreenlandAmericas0.01
🇹🇨 Turks and Caicos IslandsAmericas0.01
🇫🇴 Faroe IslandsEurope0.01
🇦🇸 American SamoaOceania0.01
🇰🇾 Cayman IslandsAmericas0.01
🇰🇳 Saint Kitts and NevisAmericas0.00
🇬🇬 GuernseyEurope0.00
🇦🇩 AndorraEurope0.00
🇸🇽 Sint MaartenAmericas0.00
🇲🇫 Saint MartinAmericas0.00
🇻🇬 British Virgin IslandsAmericas0.00
🇬🇮 GibraltarEurope0.00
🇱🇮 LiechtensteinEurope0.00
🇸🇲 San MarinoEurope0.00
🇹🇻 TuvaluOceania0.00
🇵🇼 PalauOceania0.00
🇦🇮 AnguillaAmericas0.00
🇲🇨 MonacoEurope0.00
🇳🇷 NauruOceania0.00
🇼🇫 Wallis and FutunaOceania0.00
🇨🇰 Cook IslandsOceania0.00
🇸🇭 Saint Helena, Ascension, and Tristan da CunhaAfrica0.00
🇧🇱 Saint BarthelemyAmericas0.00
🇲🇸 MontserratAmericas0.00
🇫🇰 Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas)Americas0.00
🇵🇲 Saint Pierre and MiquelonAmericas0.00

It’s worth noting that, while India ranks number one on the list, the country’s birth rate (which is its total number of births in a year per 1,000 individuals) is actually slightly below the global average, at 16.8 compared to 17.7 respectively.

China, which comes second on the list, is similar to India, with a high population but relatively low birth rate as well. On the other hand, Nigeria, which ranks third on the list, has a birth rate that’s nearly double the global average, at 34.2.

Why is Nigeria’s birth rate so high?

There are various intermingling factors at play, but one key reason is the fact that Nigeria’s economy still is developing, and ranks 131st globally in terms of GDP per capita. Further, access to education for women is still not as widespread as it could be, and research shows that this is strongly correlated with higher birth rates.

The World’s Population Growth Rate is Declining

While there are hundreds of thousands of babies born around the world each day, it’s worth mentioning that the world’s overall population growth rate has actually been declining since the 1960s.

This is happening for a number of reasons, including:

  • Increased wealth around the world, which research has correlated with fewer births
  • Various government policies discouraging large families
  • The global shift from rural to urban living

By 2100, global population growth is expected to drop to 0.1%, which means we’ll essentially reach net-zero population growth.

This would increase our global median age even further, which poses a number of economic risks if countries don’t properly prepare for this demographic shift.

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Misc

All the Contents of the Universe, in One Graphic

We explore the ultimate frontier: the composition of the entire known universe, some of which are still being investigated today.

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The Composition of the Universe

All the Contents of the Universe, in One Graphic

Scientists agree that the universe consists of three distinct parts: everyday visible (or measurable) matter, and two theoretical components called dark matter and dark energy.

These last two are theoretical because they have yet to be directly measured—but even without a full understanding of these mysterious pieces to the puzzle, scientists can infer that the universe’s composition can be broken down as follows:

ComponentValue    
Dark energy68%
Dark matter27%
Free hydrogen and helium4%
Stars0.5%
Neutrinos0.3%
Heavy elements0.03%

Let’s look at each component in more detail.

Dark Energy

Dark energy is the theoretical substance that counteracts gravity and causes the rapid expansion of the universe. It is the largest part of the universe’s composition, permeating every corner of the cosmos and dictating how it behaves and how it will eventually end.

Dark Matter

Dark matter, on the other hand, has a restrictive force that works closely alongside gravity. It is a sort of “cosmic cement” responsible for holding the universe together. Despite avoiding direct measurement and remaining a mystery, scientists believe it makes up the second largest component of the universe.

Free Hydrogen and Helium

Free hydrogen and helium are elements that are free-floating in space. Despite being the lightest and most abundant elements in the universe, they make up roughly 4% of its total composition.

Stars, Neutrinos, and Heavy Elements

All other hydrogen and helium particles that are not free-floating in space exist in stars.

Stars are one of the most populous things we can see when we look up at the night sky, but they make up less than one percent—roughly 0.5%—of the cosmos.

Neutrinos are subatomic particles that are similar to electrons, but they are nearly weightless and carry no electrical charge. Although they erupt out of every nuclear reaction, they account for roughly 0.3% of the universe.

Heavy elements are all other elements aside from hydrogen and helium.

Elements form in a process called nucleosynthesis, which takes places within stars throughout their lifetimes and during their explosive deaths. Almost everything we see in our material universe is made up of these heavy elements, yet they make up the smallest portion of the universe: a measly 0.03%.

How Do We Measure the Universe?

In 2009, the European Space Agency (ESA) launched a space observatory called Planck to study the properties of the universe as a whole.

Its main task was to measure the afterglow of the explosive Big Bang that originated the universe 13.8 billion years ago. This afterglow is a special type of radiation called cosmic microwave background radiation (CMBR).

Temperature can tell scientists much about what exists in outer space. When investigating the “microwave sky”, researchers look for fluctuations (called anisotropy) in the temperature of CMBR. Instruments like Planck help reveal the extent of irregularities in CMBR’s temperature, and inform us of different components that make up the universe.

You can see below how the clarity of CMBR changes over time with multiple space missions and more sophisticated instrumentation.
CMBR Instruments

What Else is Out There?

Scientists are still working to understand the properties that make up dark energy and dark matter.

NASA is currently planning a 2027 launch of the Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope, an infrared telescope that will hopefully help us in measuring the effects of dark energy and dark matter for the first time.

As for what’s beyond the universe? Scientists aren’t sure.

There are hypotheses that there may be a larger “super universe” that contains us, or we may be a part of one “island” universe set apart from other island multiverses. Unfortunately we aren’t able to measure anything that far yet. Unravelling the mysteries of the deep cosmos, at least for now, remains a local endeavor.

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