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The modern dog ? Canis lupus familiaris ? is now more physically diverse than it ever was. Scientists are still clueless as to how dogs nowadays have little to no resemblance to wolves, their ancestors. Somewhere along the way, wolves lost their traits. Most modern-day dogs would not be able to survive in the wild alone. They did not just lose their survival traits but they also lost their appearance traits. For example, the pug looks nothing like a wolf. Their bodies shrank and their teeth are smaller. Along with dogs, most other animals do not look like the same species of their ancestors. This is because we have figured out techniques to modify animals to the way we want them to be and I think that this is an amazing gift that we as humans have. In the book Frankenstein’s Cat by Emily Anthes, she talks a lot about the ways we have modified animals and how biotechnology affects ways of living. With the technology that we have today, we can create new organisms within a day’s time. Technology also helps to make artificial limbs for animals who may be injured. Of course, there will always be one person or a group of people who are against or who have concern about altering species. There are some people who believe that biotechnology goes against the laws of nature and believe that it is not right because we do not know if the animals want that to be happening to them. There is actually an industry for scientists that allows them to buy lab animals that have diseases to study them in order to find out more about diseases within humans. Biotechnology can do multiple things for animals. Yes, it can make them sick but with certain techniques, it can also help them to survive. People can now start to dream of a future where we can create the animal that meets all of our needs, one that is perfect for us, because the public is getting more access to biotechnology. Everyday scientists are coming up with new ways to alter the way biotechnology works and the way we can use it in the future.
I found out that the process of genetic engineering has developed a lot during the years. Scientists have figured out a way to create animals that glow. Zebrafish- Danio rerio- who are native to South Asia are normally colored with black and white stripes. Fish of this species are now swimming around in tanks in pet stores with vivid colors covering them. I find it interesting how these fish are not just their regular selves, they have the DNA from sea anemones or sea coral. The DNA cause the zebrafish to have a fluorescent glow under a black or blue light. Because of the glowing effect, the fish are trademarked as GloFish, otherwise known as “America’s first genetically engineered pets.” Every time I go to a pet store I am fascinated by them because of how vivid and beautiful they are. I find it strange how a lot of people were against GloFish. This was mostly the reaction of animal rights activists. They feared that modifying the fish with such genes would hurt them. Many pet stores did not want to carry the fish because of this. Later, after much debate, the fish were finally approved and are now sold in pet stores all across America because Blake and Crockett, the owners of GloFish, proved that the genetic modifying of the fish were not harmful to them.
AquaBounty, another company for genetically modified fish, has created a new life for Atlantic salmon. I thought that it might have been challenging for the scientists from this company to take promoters from eels and link them with growth hormones from the Chinook salmon to create a new growth hormone for the Atlantic salmon. Doing this caused the Atlantic salmon to grow faster in colder temperatures than they normally do. It turns out, I learned doing that was not the hard part. Getting the fish approved by the FDA to be used in the world’s food supply was the hardest part. From what I looked up, approval was hard because they ended up by being the first genetically modified animal used for human consumption.
One technique that I think biotechnology should be most proud of is pharming. This is the technique that tweaks genetics to have farm animals turn into a “machine” that produces medicine. ATryn goats are one example of animals that are used for this. These goats were engineered to produce the medicine in their milk that humans need because some cannot produce it on their own. ATryn is a drug that can be used to prevent blood clots that can kill someone. After the goats lactated the scientists just had to get the milk and extract the proteins that make the medicine from it then it was ready for human consumption. I think that the industry of biotechnology should be proud of this accomplishment because pharm animals could save human lives.
Cloning is becoming the newest way to bring animals away from extinction. I think that cloning is something that will always be improving because, as of now, even the clones are not exactly the same as their “genetic twin.” One horrific example of this is a bull named Second Chance. He is the clone of a bull that was named Chance. Even though Second Chance had the exact same DNA as Chance they were not exactly alike. S.C. attacked his owner, Ralph Fisher, several times and injured him. This is something that Chance, the original bull, would not have done to Fisher. I think that scientists have to be extra careful when creating clones because something like this could happen in the wild when an animal is released from a facility such as ACRES. ACRES stands for Audubon Center for Research of Endangered Species, and it is located in New Orleans. This is a place that I would love to visit one day because they try to help endangered species from being extinct. I find that the only bad thing about it is that they do this by cloning the animals. Though, from what I read, the ones that they cloned did not act like S.C.
I think that the way scientists track animals now is an amazing process. The Craighead brothers, John and Frank, were the first ones to use radio transmitters to track bears as they traveled through the wilderness in Yellowstone National Park. Using these devices helps scientists to interact with wildlife even more. I feel like marine biologists made advancements in this technology because they could not just use regular radio transmitters because they cannot work underwater. So, they developed another solution to track marine animals. They called the new solution “archival tags.” I think that these tags are fascinating because they can hold so much information in such a little area. The biologists use these tags on Bluefin tuna to track every detail about them. When fishermen catch a tuna that has these tags on them they can receive a lot of money by just calling the Tuna Research and Conservation Center (TRCC) and letting them know that they caught one. These tags can also be used for monitoring environmental shifts, such as global warming, that can threaten life in the ocean. I would love to see these tags and see how they work in person because it is kind of unbelievable that it can receive and hold so much information.
Winter, a bottlenose dolphin is now a celebrity icon. There are multiple things that are based on her story, from books to movies, which is named Dolphin Tale. I find that Winter’s story is a sad but brave one. She got her tail stuck in a crab trap while swimming in the ocean. After she washed up on shore a fisherman saw her and called a wildlife rescue team. When the team got there, they loaded her onto a stretcher and drove her to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. I think that this was the best place that they brought her to because they helped her tremendously. She had a number of cuts and scrapes from the trap being wrapped too tightly around her tail. This caused her to not be able to swim correctly on her own so eventually, her tail had to be cut off. Winter adapted to not having a tail, but the way she did was not right. She started swimming like a fish instead of like a dolphin. This started to cause a strain on her spine so her caretakers had to come up with a plan. I believe that they called in the best person to do this job because he never gave up on her. His name was Kevin Carroll and along with him was a prosthetist named Dan Strzempka, together they changed Winter’s life. They came up with a series of ways to create a prosthetic tail for the dolphin. I find that their final way was amazing. It involved a gel slip, otherwise known as “dolphin gel,” that was soft, sticky, and strong enough to protect her while staying put throughout her daily therapies. I find that her trainers were very patient with her because they had to gradually put the contraption on her so that she could get used to it. Eventually, after much practice, she started to swim like a normal dolphin again. I heard about Winter’s story before reading this book. The movie Dolphin Tale is one of my favorites. She was not just an inspiration to me, but to everyone else who heard about her story because she never gave up no matter how hard the process got! Now, “Winter’s Gel” is sold to prosthetists everywhere! I think that veterinarians should use prosthesis a lot more because it could really help animals to live healthier and happier lives, just like Winter.
Insect-cyborgs are becoming a new way to “bug” people. Because insects are such aerodynamic creatures the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and the U.S. military have programs that are trying to create insects used for spying. I believe that it is a crazy thing to even think about much less try! I would not even think about using insects for this type of research because they are such small creatures. I just do not understand where they find the place to put everything, but the military is trying it anyway. Scientists did not know much about the life of an insect so the other thing that they had to figure out besides trying to fit the equipment on them was how they were going to hack into their bodies to control them. They decided on the flower beetle- Mecynorrhina torquata- because it is a bigger insect than others. They controlled it by threading wires into holes they made through its exoskeleton and connecting them to the brain. Other wires were connected to the basalar muscles- modulate wing thrusts- to control the direction it would fly. By connecting all of these wires to a package of electronics on its back they were able to control it without any problems. Before reading the end of how they did this task I actually thought it was not going to work because of how little they knew about these insects. They proved me wrong!
I learned that there are always going to be people who are against everything dealing with genetically modified animals, even if it does not affect them at all. I am the type of person that is in the middle of how animals should live their lives and how they should be treated. Harold Herzog called this the “troubled middle.” It is a place where people think a lot of different thoughts about animals. This type of person can love animals and want them to be treated well but would also accept them being used as resources in experiments or research. These people can also want farm animals to be treated with respect but also would not want meat-eating to be prohibited. I am one that thinks all of these things and also partially believe that animals are like humans in some ways and need to be treated with respect. If animals have diseases we have scientific techniques that we could use to improve their health. I think that we should do everything that we can to help them out because we owe a lot to them. For those of us that eat meat, we do not owe them just for being our companions or for using them for research but also for providing themselves for us to eat. Like Emily Anthes says in her book, if we help out these wonderful animals we could all continue to evolve together.
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