Dr. Ross MacPhee is the former chairman of the Department of Mammalogy at the American Museum of Natural History, where he has been curator since 1988. Known for his paleomammalogical research on island extinctions, he has focused his most recent work on extinctions occurring during the past 50,000 years, or "Near Time." He is the author of the new book "End of the Megafauna: The Fate of the World's Hugest, Fiercest, and Strangest Animals" (Norton, 2019). Dr. MacPhee has also collaborated with geneticists and molecular biologists to develop the new tool of "ancient DNA" for studying the ultimate collapse of Pleistocene mammals.
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"According to Dr MacPhee, even when used in relation to animal species, the term "de-extinction" is relatively misleading: 'We're talking about novel creation – we can say that a pigeon that's eventually going to be produced looks and tweets like a passenger pigeon, but it really isn't a passenger pigeon – what it is is a chimera, a mixture, at least initially, of the nuclear genes of a passenger pigeon combined with the mitochondrial environment.'"
Dr. Ross MacPhee discusses the history and potential future of the woolly mammoth.
"'De-extinction is an effort to bring back species that are known to be extinct, things like mastadons, saber-toothed cats,' said Ross MacPhee, the curator of mammals at New York's American Museum of Natural History."
In the not-too-distant future, scientists expect that technological breakthroughs—and availability of genetic data from specimens of extinct species—will provide ways to revive vanished species. In this video, Museum Curator Ross MacPhee discusses the science and ethical considerations of "de-extinction."
Dr. Ross MacPhee discusses five ethical challeges of de-extinction.
“'Putting that much money into resurrecting one species really seems to me to be misguided.' Ross MacPhee, Ph.D., curator of the museum's department of mammalogy, puts the total cost of such a project at approximately 'a zillion dollars.'"
Dr. Ross MacPhee speaks about de-extinction at the 2017 Isaac Asimov Memorial Debate.
"Though there is no agreement among experts about whether de-extinction is advisable or even possible, Ross D. E. MacPhee, curator at the American Museum of Natural History demystified some of the issues on a warm night in early October."
"'The idea that there were many mammoth species [in North America] gets harder and harder to maintain', MacPhee said."