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Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

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Our Expert Voices conversation on de-extinction.

Without ecology, the genetic resurrection of extinct species could be little more than an interesting spectacle. Every organism plays a part in maintaining ecosystems (e.g. seed dispersal, predation), and the loss of species can alter ecosystem function.

Three guidelines to maximize the benefit of de-extinction:

  1. Target ecologically unique species: Energy is better spent attempting to bring back species that held unique positions in their ecosystem, rather than species whose roles were similar to other species. Example: the Christmas Island pipistrelle, which was the only insectivorous bat on its island.
  2. Focus on recent extinctions: The more recent the better. Ecosystems can change drastically over time, making function difficult to recover. The woolly mammoth, a proposed candidate for de-extinction, likely has been extinct too long to be placed back into current ecosystems.
  3. Ensure recovery of meaningful abundance: Without enough individuals in an ecosystem, a species won't have much impact. Barriers to restoring abundance include climate, disease, policy, and human-animal conflict. The conflicts caused by massive passenger pigeon flocks could be a barrier to restoration of this species.

Bottom line: Ultimately, de-extinction should aim to restore lost ecological function by re-creating species' ecology as well as biology.

Other voices in the conversation: Joseph Bennett, biologist, Carleton University: Keep animals from going extinct in the first place Ben J. Novak, biologist, The Great Passenger Pigeon Comeback: De-extinction is like any other conservation program Alejandro Camacho, legal scholar, University of California, Irvine: Wildlife laws aren't ready for the return of extinct species John Hawks, paleoanthropologist, University of Wisconsin-Madison: Bringing back Neanderthals

Go deeper

Virginia lawmakers vote to legalize marijuana in 2024

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam. Photo: Alex Edelman/Getty Images

Lawmakers in Virginia on Saturday approved compromise legislation that would legalize marijuana in 2024, putting the state a step closer to becoming the first in the South to end prohibition on the drug, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reports.

Why it matters: The legislation will make Virginia the 16th state to legalize marijuana, per Politico. It would add to a slate of laws that have seen Virginia move in a more progressive direction during the tenure of Gov. Ralph Northam.

Scammers seize on COVID confusion

Data: FTC; Chart: Sara Wise/Axios

Scamming has skyrocketed in the past year, and much of the increase is attributed to COVID-related scams, more recently around vaccines.

Why it matters: The pandemic has created a prime opportunity for scammers to target people who are already confused about the chaotic rollouts of things like stimulus payments, loans, contact tracing and vaccines. Data shows that older people who aren't digitally literate are the most vulnerable.

14 hours ago - Health

FDA authorizes Johnson & Johnson's one-shot COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use

Photo: Illustration by Pavlo Gonchar/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

The Food and Drug Administration on Saturday issued an emergency use authorization for Johnson & Johnson's one-shot coronavirus vaccine.

Why it matters: The authorization of a third coronavirus vaccine in the U.S. will help speed up the vaccine rollout across the country, especially since the J&J shot only requires one dose as opposed to Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech's two-shot vaccines.

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