The film Ice Age
had a production budget of 59 million dollars. A number of well-known geneticists are now seriously talking about
being able to clone a mammoth, and any other creature that went extinct within the last 60,000 years, for as little as ten million dollars. That means the principle cast of Ice Age
could have been live action for less than the film’s budget, and given Ray Romano one more reason to disappear entirely. Needless to say, I'm all for it.
But let's not get ahead of ourselves. After all, there are still some obstacles standing between us and that long-imagined paradise where fleets of mammoths roam the plains and pull our mighty warships. Some of these obstacles are scientific in nature—like how to properly harness a swimming mammoth—and others are ethical, which is to say, religious people will probably get all pissy about it.
But to my mind, another, graver challenge has been presented to us: which animals to clone back into existence, and which to leave in their well-deserved graves. After all, at ten mil a pop, we can’t afford to revive ALL the species we humans may have “nudged” into extinction.
We’ll need to make our selections carefully, cloning only animals that will fit into a current ecological niche, can sustain themselves without human aid, and can be easily trained for circus performance. We have the power to retroactively decide which species live and which die. Think of it like a time-traveling Noah’s Ark, which, incidentally, is the premise of a screenplay I’ve been tinkering with (I’m talking to you, Soderbergh).
But by what rules can we decide which animals to un-kill? Clearly, “survival of the fittest” is out. When pandas, an animal that reproduces only once a year and subsists entirely on a plant that is low in
nutrition and poisonous, can outlast the saber-tooth tiger, something has gone horribly awry. That something was us, letting the noble sabre-tooth slide into extinction while spending millions of dollars to protect the panda for the sole reason that we find them adorable and like to show them porno of themselves.
And now that we’ve put the evolutionary system so far out of whack, there’s no real way to even determine
which species are fitter, short of pitting them all against each other in some kind of animal battle arena (I’m telling you Soderbergh, this script is gold).
It is for these reasons that I’ve developed a list of criteria I think should be used to determine which species we clone back into life. The criteria are based on the observation that the animals with the best survival rating are those who are somehow pleasant or useful to humans. Take a hint, California Condor.
The species should not pose a direct threat to us. We’ve already got the Chinese to worry about; we don’t need a bunch of Plesiasaurs riding our ass.
The species should have some good PR going for it already. This is an investment. We don’t want to spend valuable time and money cloning some Lindsay Lohan-equivalent bush rat that’s just going to go extinct again the second we turn off the cloning laser. We need animals that look good on a World Wildlife Fund poster, or, failing that, at least in a zoo.
The species should be delicious. Nothing will give it a better chance of surviving in the future. Ask cows.
The species should mate frequently, and have a fairly short gestation period. I want to see these species in my lifetime, so those clones better get humping right quick.
The species should provide us with valuable scientific insight, or at least precious ivory.
Using these guidelines, I’ve selected the five animals we should start cloning right away. Take note, science.
Dodos have the benefit of being the first extinct animal people think of after dinosaurs. That level of public consciousness is impressive. Sadly, their image is pretty irretrievably one of intense, unrelenting stupidity. If Dodos were alive again, I think we’d almost want
them to go extinct if only to prove to ourselves that it was, in fact, their own idiocy that did them in the first time around. On the other hand, until the day the last one chokes to death on it’s own tongue, we’d have a viable alternative to Thanksgiving turkey.
Not many people know the name “Quagga.” The last time I thought I heard someone say it it turned out she was choking on a bagel. But damn near everyone is familiar with what the Quagga look like, which is basically a half-zebra half-horse, or “Zorse.” I say bring ‘em on, if only because it would basically eliminate the need for zebras and horses. Replace them with the more efficient Zorse, give it a better name (I suggest “Hebra”), and you’re basically killing two birds with one stone. Except instead of birds, it’s horses and zebras, and instead of stones, it's poison gas.
There’s nothing that looks nicer over a fireplace than a rack of deer antlers. Well, imagine if that rack of antlers were twelve feet long. You’d have chicks naked on your bearskin rug, like, all the nights of the week. You’d be a party guy, for real
. Of course there is the question of the threat these giant deer could pose to humans. Bambi’s mother may have gone down without a fight, but these guys are used to being kings of the forest, and might not take kindly to awakening to a world under new management. I say clone them, but only for the specific purpose of big game hunting. I don’t want to risk releasing them into the wild. And if environmentalists get all bent out of shape about it, just donate all the Irish Elk meat to an orphanage or something.
The Megatherium is a twenty-foot tall, five-ton sloth. I’m wary about cloning any giant creature, but the name “sloth” tends to put one at ease. Being associated with a deadly sin isn’t going to help its image, but its ability to sit upright and playfully stick out its long tongue just might. It’s also vegetarian, which limits our liability to being accidentally crushed or mistaken for shrubbery. But for the small price of a few (probably stupid) humans, we get back one of earth’s largest land mammals and enough meat to feed the poor of the world and still have some left over for sloth jerky.
Dare we revive our own ancestors? The cloning of a Neanderthal could provide a window into the physiognomy, behavior, and thought processes of early man. On the other hand, they might want rights or some bullshit. I say clone them, but give them ivory tusks to help make it worth our while.
When not writing for Cracked, Michael is developing clone laser technology as head writer and co-founder of Those Aren't Muskets!