Georges Cuvier, baptized Georges Jean-Leopold Nicolas-Frederic Cuvier, was a professor of anatomy at the National Museum of Natural History in Paris, France, through the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Scholars recognize Cuvier as a founder of modern comparative anatomy, and as an important contributor to vertebrate paleontology and geology. Cuvier studied the form and function of animal anatomy, writing four volumes on quadruped fossils and co-writing eleven volumes on the natural history of fish with Achille Valenciennes. Moreover, Cuvier constructed a system of classification based on specific and well-articulated principles to help anatomists classify animal taxa. Cuvier had public debate in 1830 with Etienne Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire, a dispute centered on whether form or function matters most for the study of anatomy and whether the transmutation of organic forms can occur over time. Cuvier's opinions influenced the development of biology in France, and his arguments against transmutation of types influenced the reception of Charles Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection among many French naturalists.
The Southern Gastric-Brooding Frog (Rheobatrachus silus) was an aquatic frog that lived in south-east Australia. In 2002, the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List declared the frog extinct, although no wild specimens had been reported since 1981. As the common name alludes to, the R. silus was a gastric-brooder, meaning that the female's eggs developed inside of her stomach. Weeks after ingestion, juvenile frogs escape through the mother's mouth. Because no other observed species performs this reproductive behavior, in the early twenty-first century R. silus became a target of the de-extinction movement that aims to resurrect extinct species. Researchers studied this frog's reproductive behavior and how the eggs and embryos escape digestion. Some scientists claimed that resurrecting this frog could result in future medical applications related to digestion and to reprogramming organ function, as during pregnancy, R. silus's stomach physiologically functioned as a uterus.
Revive and Restore is a California-based nonprofit that uses genetic engineering to help solve conservation problems, such as saving endangered species and increasing the biodiversity of ecosystems. To facilitate their solutions, Revive and Restore utilizes genetic engineering, which is the process of making changes to an organism’s DNA, or the set of instructions for how an organism develops and functions. One of their broad solutions is genetic rescue, which involves imbuing populations of endangered species with a wider variety of traits to make them more adaptable to a changing environment. Their other solution is de-extinction, which takes a more radical approach by attempting to recreate extinct species that performed important roles in their ecosystems. While scientists working with Revive and Restore have helped advance genome editing technology on a theoretical and technical level, their research has also prompted practical and ethical concerns over the extent of permissible human interference with nature, even when attempting to conserve it.
The goal of this research project was to examine how different messaging techniques, and especially expressions of emotionality surrounding the loss and recovery of biodiversity, can differently influence public attitudes about conservation and the environment. This question was explored using the case of de-extinction, an emerging and controversial conservation technology. De-extinction claims to “resurrect” extinct species, challenging widely held notions of extinction as permanent. Yet seeing extinction as reversible may shift how people feel about biodiversity loss and our moral responsibility to stop it.