Extinction

Kage Baker was very personally bothered by extinction – the idea of it, the realization that it occurred. To begin with, she just didn’t like the idea that things end, though she realized it had to happen. The cycles of life matter, and if no one ever goes away the world runs out of room.

It was both the dreadful loss of extant species, and their stubborn insistence on occasionally being “rediscovered”, that led to Dr. Zeus taking shape. Kage liked plants  more than fuzzy critters, so Mendoza was a botanist. Kage branched out into classic literature and music readily enough, but I (a fanatic zoophilist) had to nag her into saving endangered cattle and the like. (Someday, I’ll get “The Teddy Bear Squad” published, though, and all those fuzzy creature castles in the air will be opened at last to the public.)

Though Kage did feel that there were entirely too many of some things. Kissing bugs. Alligators. Fungi. Republicans. I could never get her to admit the total obliteration of nearly anything in the biome would be throwing a gigantic spanner in the works. She felt that, as she personally had no chance at all of rendering anything completely extinct, she wasn’t morally required to pretend she loved everything and wanted it all to live. She could safely despise disease-carrying bugs and crocodilians, because their odds of being wiped from existence by her malice was effectively nil. She could cheer when one of them was killed.

So the death of individuals didn’t upset her, not as much as the obliteration of species. Kage was not uncomfortable with the passing away of a lemur, a sea cow, a snow leopard: Nature, given half a chance, could make more. It was once the template got scratched or the mold broken that problems came in, and that was what bothered her.

You might be able to deliberately back breed for an extinct species, but the results so far have been mixed. Wild tarpans (a vanished equid, not an ancient and prized game fish) are coming along, but slowly – horses, it appears, have a delicate genome. Aurochs, the enormous wild native cattle of Europe, have been rather more successfully back bred: but humans have been messing with the breeding of cattle for millennia, and we probably bred into the aurochs gene pool in the first place, so presumably the information is still there.

That business with cloning hasn’t worked at all well so far. Forget the mosquitos; the little buggers will not be redeeming themselves for malaria by helping us bring back dinosaurs. In fact, we can’t even get a respectable start on rendering the damned mosquitos extinct, though we seem able to kill everything else …  People have been promising mastodons fresh-baked in elephants for years, but have yet to produce a viable zygote; and for every beloved pet or prize bull cloned, there are reports of twice as many failures and hoaxes. Even Dolly the sheep, an undoubted success, nonetheless died of early senescence. And no one knows why.

No, the best way to keep a flickering species’ light going is to help it breed like crazy before it’s down to two bachelor males in a zoo. Before it’s down to six breeding pairs on a tiny island, and a zoologist with a hungry pet cat moves in …. the fastest extinction on formal record, that, as Tibbles (the cat in question) brought her master a dead bird every day for a couple of weeks and thus wiped out a species. 

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Well. I have just spent half an hour attempting to put a link in this blog – an action I have done dozens of times – and I cannot make it work. I’ve deleted part or all of the blog a dozen times, and it was only my OCD addiction to saving that has enabled me to get back into it at all. I am ready to scream.

Instead, as I am a card-carrying adult (thank you, Social Security) I shall simply close for the night, Before I send the rest of this into the Uttermost West.

My only real point tonight anyway was the suitably vague observation that we shouldn’t destroy what we cannot replace. All life matters. Nothing is disposable. All you need is love – and a good conservation program, I guess.

You know, Dear Readers, Kage believed (on some level) that what she wrote up as Saved, was actually saved somewhere, some when. Somewhere Eohippus gambols with its fabulous extinct descendant, the Unicorn – alongside the Javan rhinosaurus. Somewhere crocodiles with six-foot long legs race about, being stomped into submission by the immense Demon Ducks from Hell. Somewhere the last several iterations of the human race sit around toasting one another’s health, while enormous clear-eyed wolves loll about enjoying the early fruits of domestication.

Somewhere, Kage has the blueprints for everything.*

 

*There should have been an amusing illustration here, but I can’t make that work, either. Sigh.