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A Mega Apology for Megalodon

On January 1, 2016, the Southern Fried Science central server began uploading blog posts apparently circa 2041. Due to a related corruption of the contemporary database, we are, at this time, unable to remove these Field Notes from the Future or prevent the uploading of additional posts. Please enjoy this glimpse into the ocean future while we attempt to rectify the situation.


brokenLast April I did something dumb. As longtime readers no doubt know, in the last few years the April Fools pranks between me and David Shiffman have gotten… excessive. After he had my favorite dog cloned a dozen times (thanks for that, buddy, they’re all doing great), I had to step up my game. Well, it looks like all these years of continuously one-upping each other, we have finally found the upper limit.

David has been railing against the non-existence of Megalodon for decades. It is the myth that will not die. Ages ago, I naively thought after Shark Week 2015 and our paper, we would finally be done with the Megalodon Conspiracy, but, unlike its namesake, the legend persists.

So, early last year I used CRISPR-CRASS to do something I’ve always wanted to try. With the help of some students, who will remain unnamed, I de-extincted Carcharocles megalodon and quietly deposited it in one of his unused behavioral test tanks. He returned from the field to discover that, finally, the monster shark lives.

brokenWe thought it was hilarious. A couple months later, I wrote about the process of garage de-extinction for Mouthfeedr (seriously, how cool is it that you can bring a species back from oblivion with the tools available in a modestly well-equipped bio-shack?).

Well, my institution didn’t think it was funny or cool. I’ve been sanctioned by both the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee and the Committee for the Ethical Manufacture of New and Novel Organisms. Consider this my formal apology:

The reckless creation and release of new or de-extincted organisms, particularly into an uncontrolled environment like a colleague’s lab while they’re out-of-town, presents tremendous risks to the environment. Extinct species have been functionally removed from an ecosystem, and in their absence, the ecosystem evolves and adapts. Releasing a previously extinct species back, even into its native range, can cause profound upheaval and may completely destabilize the system, throwing it out of equilibrium.

Far more species have been rendered extinct due to what is essentially a new species invasion than have been saved by the de-extinction movement. The Siberian mammoths were a disaster, but at least they provided plenty of food for the last few Prizzleys. Not so the Dodo, which has been described by finer writers than myself as a bird that “wants nothing more than to die.” Constructing a microbiome for a long dead species is still more of an art than a science.  

The Megalodon is fine. David named it Discovery and for now it’s growing. But, of course, you can’t release a shark that big into the wild and it will eventually outgrow the tank. So I don’t get IACUC or EMNNO approval for any other project until we sort out Discovery’s long term care.

Here’s how you can help.

broken

We’re holding a silent digi-auction to fund Discovery’s new tank and provide for her needs. Like all sharks, Megalodons continuously produce new teeth.  As she drops old teeth, you can bid on them and claim the rarest of all shark artifacts, a non-fossilized Megalodon tooth. We’ll keep the auction going for as long as she lives, but the first 100 teeth will be signed and numbered by Dr. Shiffman and myself, so get them quick.

The digi-auction can be found here: How to train an Ocean Giant – Help support Discovery’s long-term care!


On January 1, 2016, the Southern Fried Science central server began uploading blog posts apparently circa 2041. Due to a related corruption of the contemporary database, we are, at this time, unable to remove these Field Notes from the Future or prevent the uploading of additional posts. Please enjoy this glimpse into the ocean future while we attempt to rectify the situation.


Deep-sea biologist, population/conservation geneticist, backyard farm advocate. The deep sea is Earth's last great wilderness.


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