Human-Assisted Evolution to Help Animals Survive a Human-Dominated Age

By Rebecca Horne | August 14, 2012 12:16 pm

UK-based photographer Vincent Fournier collaborated with scientists to create his digitally enhanced photographs of genetically modified animals better suited to the extreme climates of our changing environment. Starting with a taxidermy sample, animal geneticists explained species evolutionary processes. Fournier then imagined how they might evolve, creating a veritable Noah’s Ark of creatures made to last; super-smart rabbits, armored mammals with metallic scales, owls with digitally enhanced memory, a seven-foot jumping beetle, a banana-flavored orchid, and frost-resistant ibis with long claws enhanced with silicon-28 (ABOVE).

Dr. Agnes Ricroch, a French scientist and professor at Penn State University whose areas of research include genetic modification and bioethics, wrote the legends describing the organisms (animals, plants) and their new traits and how they could have been engineered, as well as their new Latin names. Dr. Ricroch created the species name by imagining the Latin name that fit best with the engineered trait, and used it along with the real genus name, as with the ibis above, Passeridae temperatio. She reflected on what synthetic biology and genetic engineering might mean in the future:

“If scientists can inject stem cells or transgenes or DNA-bricks to improve a capacity during the embryogenic stage, it would be possible to generate an animal with a new characteristic (an improved capacity to survive climate changes)…

Natural selection is the process by which the organisms in a population that are best adapted to the environment increase in frequency relative to less well-adapted individuals. If the climate change is a not a very rapid process therefore natural selection could play in choosing the animals that will best fit to a new environment. Using synthetic biology to create new animals to survive climate changes could take years. Perhaps natural selection will play faster than the engineering of organisms by synthetic biology. As synthetic biology is a new scientific area we will not be able to use synthetic biology to create new animals to survive climate changes. But we could use synthetic biology to create new animals or plants to detect pollutants because they do not exist.”

You can see more images from the photography project, Engineered Species, on Fournier’s website.

IBIS [Passeridae temperatio] Drought and frost-resistant bird

CATEGORIZED UNDER: biology, Environment, Ideas, Tech, The Future
  • Khannea

    Correct me if I am wrong, but there is no law disallowing this type of engineering on living humans. If I can do this, I should not be bothered by bullies or cops.

    …So basicly, once this science enters the public domain of hobbyist, crowd-sourced genetic tinkering, we may see private citizens (consenting adults) add genetic qualities to their own biological state? These qualities may include radically improved longevity. But they may also include modifications to the human genetic substrate that may strongly affect how society works. What if women changes themselves as to lay an egg after a 9 week pregnancy? And the egg gestates a human being? What would be the consequences?

    Would society end up creating yet another senseless prohibition? Or would we tax people who have genetically modified themselfes? Or tax their children (through no fault of their own making)? Or do we tax the ACT of implementing a modification? And wouldn’t that in itself serve to create black markets of unaccountable modification?

    … I do not see reasons to conclude this can’t be possible this century. It may even be possible to do this in my lifetime. Whether or not it is likely or probably is debatable, but I think it will be.

    I am in favor of this type of freedom. My genes are my own private domain, and what I do with them is my business along, as long as my modifications don’t cause me to have dangerous or maladjusted behavior, or spread diseases to other people. Or something to that effect.

    I would argue in favor of using these freedoms. I would call on people to agree with me to organize in a citizens genetic selfdeterminacy workgroup.

  • Chris the Canadian

    Lovely, let’s mess around with evolution and try to create more and more genetically modified creatures. That’s what we should do. Unbelievable. Humans never learn do they?

  • Redshift


    That would have to be an uncomfortably large egg!

  • Alex Dueck

    Ya never thought of that but call me up if you have any cool genes to inject

  • Examen

    thx 4 posting this here


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