With so many seed and gene banks globally, there is abundance amounts of effort put in regarding the preservation of the world’s agriculture.
But what about our animal life?
Globally, there is over 5,000 wildlife species that are in danger of becoming extinct. This is a huge problem, especially for our biodiversity.
“Biological diversity – or biodiversity – is the term given to the variety of life on Earth. It is the variety within and between all species of plants, animals and micro-organisms and the ecosystems within which they live and interact.”(Wwf.org.au, 2016).
Without biodiversity, we risk losing species richness, species composition, species interactions and ecosystem stability.
So what’s being done to prevent this? Frozen Zoos.
The Animal Gene Storage and Resource Centre of Australia (AGSRCA), was the first frozen zoo to be established in 1995. The AGSRCA, which can be found at Monash University, received multiple samples from throughout Australia and worldwide between 1995 and 2006. There was 100 species, with multiple individuals within some species.
Some examples of these are the northern hairy-nosed wombat, the stitch-nest rat, the bilby, and the grey nurse shark. (The Conversation, 2012).
They work by rapidly freezing tissue samples collected from biopsies, and reproductive material (such as sperm and egg samples) to a very low temperature(at –196° Celsius in liquid nitrogen ), which keep them in a state of suspended animation (America.aljazeera.com, 2016).
The cells that are kept in frozen zoos are being used to research the potential they could have on the future and the conservation of the earth.
The gene banks have implications beyond just preserving the different species of our world. It’s pivotal for cross-breeding, to preserve specific specie traits (that allow animals to adapt) and the prospect of improving disease resistance.
An animal gene bank is a guarantee that in the face of a possible catastrophe, it will be possible to save our animal resources. (The Conversation, 2012).
There are 3 strategies that all have equal importance to try and prevent the rapid loss of biodiversity, and need to be carried out together to have optimum preservation of biodiversity:
1)The maintenance or increased area size of species natural habit’s to provide protected homes. (Slowing the loss of natural habitats.)
2)Collect representative species that can be held and bred in captivity. (Such as zoos, aquariums)
3)Maintain permanent safe reserves of collected genetic materials from species that are threatened with becoming endangered, in genetics banks such as AGSRCA and The Frozen Ark.
Ultimately, preserving animal DNA and it’s biodiversity is essential to our own survival. The living world is made up of a number of different ecosystems, and whilst we may be on the top of the food chain, if all the links underneath us disappear, the we fall as well.
In the Frozen Arc article (Phys.org, 2016), they state that “If the invertebrates die, we die.” There are so many species that are in such a rapid decline, that scientists are predicting that earth’s 6th greatest extinction is under way. (The last one that occurred 65 million years ago, killed off all the dinosaurs.)
We don’t want to end up like the Dodo bird, do we?
For more information on The Frozen Arc and their partnerships, take a look here.
Wwf.org.au. (2016). What is biodiversity?. [online] Available at: http://www.wwf.org.au/our_work/saving_the_natural_world/what_is_biodiversity/ [Accessed 3 May 2016].
Rainforest Conservation Fund. (2010). 4) Consequences of biodiversity loss. [online] Available at: http://www.rainforestconservation.org/rainforest-primer/2-biodiversity/g-recent-losses-in-biodiversity/4-consequences-of-biodiversity-loss/ [Accessed 3 May 2016].The Conversation. (2012). Money in the gene bank: save the ‘Frozen Zoo’ and save species. [online] Available at: https://theconversation.com/money-in-the-gene-bank-save-the-frozen-zoo-and-save-species-9575 [Accessed 3 May 2016].
America.aljazeera.com. (2016). Need to Know: The A to Z of Frozen Zoos. [online] Available at: http://america.aljazeera.com/watch/shows/techknow/blog/2014/2/27/need-to-know-theatozoffrozenzoos.html [Accessed 3 May 2016].
Web.mit.edu. (2016). Mission 2015: Gene Banks. [online] Available at: http://web.mit.edu/12.000/www/m2015/2015/gene_banks.html [Accessed 3 May 2016].