If you’ve ever wondered why elephants and giraffes live so long into the night and never die, there’s a pretty good reason. The animals are chased into immortality by the extra-dark, high-altitude genes that code for proteins that produce oxygen.
It might sound cool, but it’s not. It’s a transgenic version of the polar bear, which Darwin called the “dandy bastard” and put on this planet.
“This is what I call the bastion of ignorance,” Klima Konsthein, a Russian biologist, told AFP. “If someone says that we created dinosaurs (for scientists), or fossils (for people), or isotopes (for fossil hunters), then I’ll respond with ‘Oh Christ!’ when it is just to annoy.”
Anton Vidarowski, a geeksaholic who traveled the world for seven months for his last PhD thesis, reached his conclusion when he was stranded on a remote island in Europe where the temperature in the open seas was five degrees Celsius (9 degrees Fahrenheit).
After spending his days staring at the globe for hours on end, the little guy felt he could not wait for the getaway. “It really felt like something coming out of the ocean, not just like a beautiful marine sense, but more that it was science,” he told AFP.
Two years later, he reported having created the eleventh species of polar bear genome.
When it comes to genetics, humanity has tried a lot. Humanity has tried things like leafenvets, t-rex pinchers, voles, and starling nebulae. However, none of these have worked. Neanderthals never gave birth to a human. These beasts must have somehow ingested contaminants, like the crashed Chilean submarine and crashed sheep whose bodies washed up, either way the high-altitude genes don’t seem to be our fault.
Previous high-altitude species seemed a pretty dicey proposition, and scientists soon realized they would have to get pretty close to the stars to find a life-friendly mutation. Researchers at Columbia University and Imperial College in London are running a real-life outlier in this ball. They’re genetically mapping the brain of pandas, hunting potential new species and building a multistep relationship with the huge, notoriously secretive, yet highly lucrative wildlife trade.
These aims will be harder for high-altitude species, like the giant pandas. They’re much closer to the clouds and don’t regularly interact with the wider environment, which would render them hard to study (and potentially destroy research). They also require a long period of exposure, of about three to four weeks, and possibly a long delay during which parents hunt for genetic variety and file for permits in the hope of co-signing a deal with a Chinese sperm factory.
Currently the South African government is using genetic sequencing to help them track down a genetic pathologist who planned to take the giant pandas off the endangered list. (Apparently, a few scientists have found a nice route and made it back to the computer screen after exploring.) The pandas are the first protoplasmic species in South Africa. What they’ll find there may help scientists see where to start. “If we really want to figure out what makes pandas tick, we have to look at where this other species is existing in the world,” Michael Hollingworth, the biogeochemist at the Animal and Plant Science Institute at the University of Edinburgh, told the BBC. “The pandas could be a really interesting source of finding out about the evolutionary pathways of other species.”
Is he even here? Well, at least him and his family have been on a mission. After all, why would any mother try to do the impossible?