Black Cat / White Cat

november 7th, 2009

Red cat

South Korean scientists have cloned cats that look reddish under ultraviolet light by modifying a protein gene to change their skin color.

The team at Gyeongsang National University produced three Turkish Angora cats possessing altered fluorescence protein (RFP) genes.

The Ministry of Science and Technology said, “It marked the first time in the world that cats with RFP genes have been cloned. The ability to produce cloned cats with the manipulated genes is significant as it could be used for developing treatments for genetic diseases and for reproducing model (cloned) animals suffering from the same diseases as humans.”

Chinese Cryptozoology

juni 17th, 2008

Shen Shaomin
Unknown Creature – Three Headed Monster, 2002

shen shaomin three headed monster

Shen Shaomin adopts the role of being anthropologist, scientist, and author of his own fabricated mythologies. Constructed from real animal bones, his sculptures collectively create a bestiary of fictional creatures that are wondrous, frightening, and strange. Reminiscent of Borges’s Book of Imaginary Beings, Shen’s absurd assemblages exude an ancient wisdom, authenticating the magic of fable and folklore, while alluding to contemporary issues of genetic modification, consequence of environmental threat, and concepts of the alien and exotic.

In pieces such as Three Headed Monster and Mosquito, the skeletal remains of ‘extinct’ creatures are presented with the validity of museum display. Their colossal scale reinforces their imagined prehistoric origin as Jurassic curiosities and spiritual totems. Assembled from genuine ossified animal parts, his creatures are simultaneously familiar and perplexing, indicating a warped and uncomfortable process of evolution. Often carving into his surfaces, Shen adorns his creations with scrimshaw, further entwining humanistic reference into his disturbing zoological evidence.

Unknown Creature – Mosquito, 2002

shen shaomin mosquito


Body Double

november 13th, 2007

BEAVERTON, Oregon (CNN) — Oregon researchers say they have cloned a monkey by splitting an early-stage embryo and implanting the pieces into mother animals.

The technique has so far produced only one living monkey, a bright-eyed rhesus macaque female named Tetra, now 4 months old.

clone monkey 2 clone monkey 2

Tetra the monkey is different from Dolly the sheep, which was produced by Scientists at Scotland’s Roslin Institute using a process called nuclear transfer — taking the nucleus out of an adult cell and using it to reprogram an unfertilized egg.

Some scientists argue that animals like Dolly are not 100 percent clones because they have genetic material both from the adult cell they were taken from, and from the egg that is hollowed out to make the clone. Tetra was produced by a technique called “embryo splitting.” Here’s how it works:

* An egg from a mother and sperm from a father are used to create a fertilized egg.

* After the embryo grows into eight cells, researchers split it into four identical embryos, each consisting of just two cells.

* The four embryos are then implanted into surrogate mothers. Schatten said that in effect, a single embryo becomes four embryos, all genetically identical.

clone monkey drawing

In the case of their experiment, three of the embryos didn’t survive. The fourth, Tetra, was born 157 days later. Her name means “one of four.” Tetra isn’t the first monkey to be cloned, but she is the first using the embryo-splitting technique. More are on the way.

The Future Farm

september 27th, 2007

Alexis Rockman
The Farm, 2000

Alexis Rockman
oil and acrylic on wood panel, 96 x 120 in.
Courtesy of JGS, Inc.

‘My artworks are information-rich depictions of how our culture perceives and interacts with plants and animals, and the role culture plays in influencing the direction of natural history.

The Farm contextualizes the biotech industry’s explosive advances in genetic engineering within the history of agriculture, breeding, and artificial selection in general. The image, a wide-angle view of a cultivated soybean field, is constructed to be read from left to right. The image begins with the ancestral versions of internationally familiar animals, the cow, pig, and chicken, and moves across to an informed speculation about how they might look in the future. Also included are geometrically transformed vegetables and familiar images relating to the history of genetics. In The Farm I am interested in how the present and the future look of things are influenced by a broad range of pressures- human consumption, aesthetics, domestication, and medical applications among them. The flora and fauna of the farm are easily recognizable; they are, at the same time, in danger of losing their ancestral identities’.

cloned pigs

Five cloned piglets: Noel, Angel, Star, Joy and Mary
Born on Christmas Day 2001 in the US Scottish-based firm PPL Therapeutics

These are not the first pig clones, but PPL, a commercial offshoot of the Roslin Institute in Scotland, says the pigs are the first to be engineered in a way that should help prevent their tissues being rejected by the human body.
The animals’ biological make-up is slightly different from ordinary pigs. PPL says that it intends to use the pigs as part of its programme to seek a cure for humans suffering from diabetes.

Mice and Men

juli 31st, 2007

Bryan Crockett
Ecce Homo, 2000


marble and epoxy, 30 x 40 x 70 in.

Transgenics is the practice of transplanting genes from one species to another, thus creating genetic hybrids that can develop characteristics of both species. Consider what is happening with genetics. For instance, the oncomouse is the first patented transgenic lab mouse, engineered to have a human immune system for the purpose of oncology research. In this way, the practice of genetics can be understood as an analogy to the worlds of allegory and mythology. Like the Satyr or Minotaur, the oncomouse is the literalization of a clichÈ man/mouse. That is why I have chosen to reinterpret the ultimate figure of salvation, Christ, through the ultimate actor of contemporary science, the oncomouse. This sculpture is intended to be a monument to the test object of modern science, human kindís symbolic and literal stand-in personified. This human-scale, fleshy mouse, sculpted with the pathos of classical sculpture, stands in a gesture reminiscent of Christ revealing his wounds. Almost six feet tall he is nude (as is the oncomouse) and his flesh is a very convincing pale skin tone. Upon further inspection, however, one realizes the mouse/man is actually sculpted in flesh-colored marble. The lifelike sculpture and skin texture makes the sculpture oscillate between a living creature and a strong likeness, evoking the Pygmalion myth.


Back in 1997, a rather bizarre photograph suddenly became very famous. It showed a totally hairless mouse, with what appeared to be a human ear growing out of its back. That photograph prompted a wave of protest against genetic engineering, which continues today.

Follow the Green Rabbit

juli 26th, 2007

Eduardo Kac
GFP Bunny, 2000

Eduardo Kac green rabbit

“Alba”, the green fluorescent bunny, is an albino rabbit. This means that, since she has no skin pigment, under ordinary environmental conditions she is completely white with pink eyes. Alba is not green all the time. She only glows when illuminated with the correct light. When (and only when) illuminated with blue light (maximum excitation at 488 nm), she glows with a bright green light (maximum emission at 509 nm). She was created with EGFP, an enhanced version (i.e., a synthetic mutation) of the original wild-type green fluorescent gene found in the jellyfish Aequorea Victoria. EGFP gives about two orders of magnitude greater fluorescence in mammalian cells (including human cells) than the original jellyfish gene.

The first phase of the “GFP Bunny” project was completed in February 2000 with the birth of “Alba” in Jouy-en-Josas, France. This was accomplished with the invaluable assistance of zoosystemician Louis Bec and scientists Louis-Marie Houdebine and Patrick Prunet. Alba’s name was chosen by consensus between my wife Ruth, my daughter Miriam, and myself. The second phase is the ongoing debate, which started with the first public announcement of Alba’s birth, in the context of the Planet Work conference, in San Francisco, on May 14, 2000. The third phase will take place when the bunny comes home to Chicago, becoming part of my family and living with us from this point on.
Alba is a healthy and gentle mammal. Contrary to popular notions of the alleged monstrosity of genetically engineered organisms, her body shape and coloration are exactly of the same kind we ordinarily find in albino rabbits. Unaware that Alba is a glowing bunny, it is impossible for anyone to notice anything unusual about her. Therefore Alba undermines any ascription of alterity predicated on morphology and behavioral traits. It is precisely this productive ambiguity that sets her apart: being at once same and different. The mystery and beauty of life is as great as ever when we realize our close biological kinship with other species and when we understand that from a limited set of genetic bases life has evolved on Earth with organisms as diverse as bacteria, plants, insects, fish, reptiles, birds, and mammals.

alba1 alba2

Alba is undoubtedly a very special animal, but I want to be clear that her formal and genetic uniqueness are but one component of the “GFP Bunny” artwork. The “GFP Bunny” project is a complex social event that starts with the creation of a chimerical animal that does not exist in nature (i.e., “chimerical” in the sense of a cultural tradition of imaginary animals, not in the scientific connotation of an organism in which there is a mixture of cells in the body) and that also includes at its core:
1) ongoing dialogue between professionals of several disciplines (art, science, philosophy, law, communications, literature, social sciences) and the public on cultural and ethical implications of genetic engineering;
2) contestation of the alleged supremacy of DNA in life creation in favor of a more complex understanding of the intertwined relationship between genetics, organism, and environment;
3) extension of the concepts of biodiversity and evolution to incorporate precise work at the genomic level;
4) interspecies communication between humans and a transgenic mammal;
5) integration and presentation of “GFP Bunny” in a social and interactive context;
6) examination of the notions of normalcy, heterogeneity, purity, hybridity, and otherness;
7) consideration of a non-semiotic notion of communication as the sharing of genetic material across traditional species barriers;
8) public respect and appreciation for the emotional and cognitive life of transgenic animals;
9) expansion of the present practical and conceptual boundaries of artmaking to incorporate life invention.

Eduardo Kac

‘I will never forget the moment when I first held her in my arms, in Jouy-en-Josas, France, on April 29, 2000. My apprehensive anticipation was replaced by joy and excitement. Alba — the name given her by my wife, my daughter, and I — was lovable and affectionate and an absolute delight to play with. As I cradled her, she playfully tucked her head between my body and my left arm, finding at last a comfortable position to rest and enjoy my gentle strokes. She immediately awoke in me a strong and urgent sense of responsibility for her well-being’.

Mammoth Clone: Science, or Simply Fiction?

april 28th, 2007


Bill Gasperini

The idea of cloning a mammoth is just a fantasy,” says biologist Ross MacPhee, an expert on the giant fauna of the last ice age and chairman of the American Museum of Natural History’s mammalogy department. Alex Greenwood, a molecular biologist who studies ice age extinctions (and a colleague of MacPhee’s in New York), agrees: “I am really stunned,” he says, “that there are scientists still pushing this idea.” MacPhee, who has worked extensively with the Jarkov mammoth in Siberia, and Greenwood say that making an exact copy of a species that died off 10,000 years ago is possible only in science fiction movies.

The main reason is simple: To have any chance at a successful cloning, scientists must start with pristine, complete DNA. But even in cold environments, cells quickly break down after an organism dies; entropy occurs, and bacteria and certain enzymes latch onto or destroy cellular material. All the DNA found from long-extinct animals (even those remains found in the Siberian permafrost) has been incomplete and fragmented.

“If freezing is done under special conditions, such as in a modern laboratory, cells with their genetic material can be preserved indefinitely,” explains Russian scientist Alexei Tikhonov. “But conditions out in the permafrost are far from perfect.” Tikhonov has worked with the best-preserved mammoth ever found, a baby mammoth carcass pulled from a construction site in 1977. Nicknamed “Dima,” the small calf still had its skin and looked like it could have died just days earlier. But it probably fell into a mud pit and died quickly 44,000 years ago. Dima now rests in Tikhonov’s institute in St. Petersburg. Studies have shown that proteins in Dima’s cells were seriously modified after death, and that other substances common in living tissues (such as phosphorous) disappeared entirely.

Cloning is only possible when the nucleus taken from a living cell (such as with Dolly the sheep) is placed into an egg from which the original nucleus has been removed. This substitute nucleus, with its DNA, proteins and other crucial material completely intact, was what controlled the development of Dolly. Injecting fragments of DNA into a cell without a nuclear transfer would not result in a clone. Greenwood explains it this way: “If I throw all the parts needed to make a car down the stairs of a building, I will not have a Porsche 911 in the stairwell when they land.”

Ryuzo Yanagimachi, a scientist in Hawaii who has successfully cloned mice and other small mammals, says he would like to clone a mammoth. But he agrees that this could happen only if intact DNA is ever recovered from a long-dead mammoth. In recent years, a Japanese team has mounted several expeditions into Russia’s far north with the expressed aim of trying to bring a mammoth back to life. The team’s main intent is to recover frozen sperm from a mammoth and then use it to impregnate a female elephant, the mammoth’s closest living relative. But Greenwood and MacPhee say this is equally problematic, even on the off-chance that intact sperm DNA from a mammoth could ever be found. “Mammoths and elephants have been separated by about 4 (million) to 6 million years of evolution,” says Greenwood. “This would be like crossbreeding a human and a chimp and expecting to have a successful generation of a hybrid.”

Is it possible that in the march of time and scientific advance, technologies may be developed that will allow extinct creatures to be cloned? Or, someday, may a perfectly intact chain of mammoth DNA be found? According to MacPhee, such questions remain too tough to answer. “There isn’t even a direction we can point to,” he says, “which would indicate whether cloning extinct animals will ever be possible.”

© 2005 Discovery Communications Inc.


Baby Mammoth discovered in Siberia in 2007

Eric Adler
Cloning a Better Tomorrow



april 20th, 2007

Betty Chu


The color of rabbits is determined by 5 letters: A, B, C, D, E.
Wild rabbits carry color genetic make up of AABBCCDDEE which appear as chestnut agouti. Over thousands of years, mutations occured. In addition to all capital letters genes, some genes of lower letters and lower letters with subscripts show up. There are some rules to remember:

* The capital letter genes, in principle, are the dominant genes. The lower letter genes are recessive to the capital letter genes.
* A rabbit’s appearance is determined by the dominant gene, it may carry copies of recessive gene that we do not see.
* A sire and a dam with the appearances of all reccessive genes can not produce offsprings with dominant gene.
* The bunny will obtain one gene from the sire and one gene from the dam.


With the above in mind, I’ll discuss the ABCDE in 5 series, all the letter are arranged in the order of dominance.

1. A Series: determines Agouti (A) or non-agouti (at or a)
Chestnut Agouti picture of Chestnut Agouti
A stands for Agouti: Since A is dominant, all agouti patterned rabbit carries at least one A gene. Examples of Agouti colors are: chestnut agouti, chocolate agouti, chinchilla, opal, fawn, etc.
at stands for tan or marten pattern. Tan and marten pattern are not accepted in Angoras. It will not be discussed here.
a stands for non-agouti: a is recessive to A, that means an Agouti patterned rabbit may carry a gene but a non-agouti rabbit will not carry A gene. Examples of non-agouti colors are: black, blue, chocolate, lilac, tort, blue tort, pearl, … etc.

2. B Series: determines Black (B) or brown (b)
B stands for black. There are only two variations of black: black and blue. If a rabbit is a black or blue, the rabbit must carry at least a B. Whether it is a black or blue will be determined by the D series gene.
b stands for brown. In Angora, we call it chocolate. There are two variations of chocolate: chocolate and lilac. If the rabbit is chocolate and lilac, the rabbit must carry two b genes. b is recessive to B, so a chocolate or lilac rabbit can not carry B. Whether the rabbit is chocolate of lilac will be determined by the D series gene.


3. C Series: determines Colored (C), dark chin (cchd), sable (cchl), himi (ch) or Albino (c)
C stands for colored: Most of the regularly colored rabbits carry C. If you see a black, chocolate, chestnut agouti, tort, …. rabbit, you can be sure it carries at least a C gene. C is dominant of cchd, cchl, ch, c. The second gene may be a C or any one of the four lower letters.
cchd stands for dark chinchilla. Chinchilla is a colored rabbit but does not carry a C, sort of an exception to the rule. A special notation for the chin – gene is cchd, a chinchilla rabbit cannot carry C since cchd is recessive to the C gene. cchd is dominant of chl, ch and c, so the second letter to cchd may be cchd or any of cchl, ch and c. In order to get a chinchilla rabbit, it has to carry a A for agouti gene. If not, it may cause a non-agouti rabbit to have wrong eye color.
cchl stands for light chinchilla. It is more correct to think of it as a sable gene. If a rabbit carries cchl and combines with A, the color of the chin is muddy with brownish, reddish tinge- a very poor chin color. However, the sable color needs a brownish reddish tinge. cchl is the gene which makes the right color. Sable requires non-agouti a to be combined with cchl. If the rabbit carries two cchl, in Angora breed, it is called dark sable. If one cchl with ch or c, it is a regular or light sable. Both cchd and cchl rabbits do not carry the true color gene C, so some of the eye colors tend to have a ruby glow.
ch stands for himi or pointed white. ch gene covers the colors on the rabbit’s body and only allows the colors to show on the points. So the rabbit has all appearance of a white rabbit except the points. There is no color in the eyes. The eyes appeared to be pink, what we see is actually the blood vessals.
c: stands for albino. The appearance of the rabbit is ruby eye white. The rabbit may carry any of the genes in A, B, D, E series, but the cc genes act like a white sheet covering all other characteristics of the color genes. c is the most recessive in the C series. Breeding two ruby eye white rabbits will result in nothing but ruby eye white.

4. D Series: determines Dense color (D) or dilute color (d)
D stands for dense color. Black, chocolate, chestnut agouti are dense colors, the rabbit must carry at least one D gene.
d stands for dilute color. Blue, lilac, opal are dilute colors, the rabbit must carry two dd genes.

5. E Series: Es, E, ej, e
Es stands for steel. As a general rule, mutated genes are recessive to the original gene. Es is an exception to the rule. This is a mutation but takes dominance. Es acts differently from other genes – it modifies the color rather determines the color. I have not seen a steel English Angora in all my years of raising the breed. There are steel French and Satin Angoras. When combined with Agouti gene, it look like a very dark chestnut or wild grey agouti. The easy way to identify a steel is to look at the tummy. A chestnut or wild grey agouti has white or light color tummy, a steel has a dark tummy. When combined with a gene, it look like a black rabbit with brown hairs stick out – it is a disqualification.
E stands for extension. When a rabbit carries at least one E gene, the color of the rabbit extends from base to tip. Black, blue, chocolate, lilac, chestnut agouti, opal, chinchilla, …. all of these rabbits has extended colors.
ej stands for Japanese, not relevant to Angoras.
e stands for non-extension. Tort, blue tort, choc. tort, lilac tort, fawn, cream, pearl, all these rabbits have something in common: they are colored rabbits but the body color is different or lighter than the point color. They all carry two copies of non-extension gene ee. As a result the true color of these rabbits are not extended to the body, only the points carry the true color. Example, a tort is a black rabbit whose black color is not extended over its body.

The above is a very simplified version of basic color genetics. I did not cover red which requires rufus gene, broken which requires En gene and blue eye white which requires vv gene.

If there are color genetics experts out there shaking their heads when reading this article, please excuse me. Over the years, I found out that if I tried to use all the big and correct words in genetics to explain the basics, I got lost and most people got lost. When I use this method, I was able to help many of my fellow breeders to understand the basics and got interested in mapping out the color genetics of their own herd.

Darwins Nightmare

april 13th, 2007

©Mike Mosedale

Charles Darwin’s Origin of Species (publ. 1859) is a pivotal work in scientific literature and arguably the pivotal work in evolutionary biology. The book’s full title is On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life. It introduced the theory that populations evolve over the course of generations through a process of natural selection. It was controversial because it contradicted religious beliefs which underlay the then current theories of biology. Darwin’s book was the culmination of evidence he had accumulated on the voyage of the Beagle in the 1830s and added to through continuing investigations and experiments since his return.

Theory in a nutshell

Darwin’s theory is based on key observations and inferences drawn from them:

1. Species have great fertility. They make more offspring than can grow to adulthood.
2. Populations remain roughly the same size, with modest fluctuations.
3. Food resources are limited, but are relatively stable over time.
4. An implicit struggle for survival ensues.
5. In sexually reproducing species, generally no two individuals are identical.
6. Some of these variations directly impact the ability of an individual to survive in a given environment.
7. Much of this variation is inheritable.
8. Individuals less suited to the environment are less likely to survive and less likely to reproduce, while individuals more suited to the environment are more likely to survive and more likely to reproduce.
9. The individuals that survive are most likely to leave their inheritable traits to future generations.
10. This slowly effected process results in populations that adapt to the environment over time, and ultimately, after interminable generations, the creations of new varieties, and ultimately, new species.

Koen Vanmechelen
The Cosmopolitan Chicken, 2000

Koen Vanmechelen

The Cosmopolitan Chicken is the world-wide breeding project by Belgian artist Koen Vanmechelen (1965) to which the cross-breeding of different national chicken races is central and crucial. The cross-breeding as the quintessence of the dynamic, fertile and creative life and of the peaceful living together of different races.

The story officially starts in 2000, in the Flemish village of Watou, at the boarder between Belgium and France. As his participation at the exhibition ‘Storm Centers’, curated by Jan Hoet, Koen Vanmechelen has cross-bred the Belgian chicken “Mechelse Koekoek” (cuckoo of Malines) with the French pride “Poulet de Bresse”.
The descendants of this crossing, named “Mechelse Bresse’s” were consecutively and at their turn cross-bred with the typical English chicken ‘English Redcap’; this happened in 2000 too at the group show ‘A Shot in the Head’ at Lisson Gallery, London.
In 2001, at Deweer Art Gallery in Otegem (B) a one-man show entitled “Between natural breeding and genetic enginering” was presented with the descendants of the cross-breeding between the “Malinese Bresse’s” and the “English Redcap”, thus called “Mechelse Redcap”.
After that, the “Malinese Redcap” was cross-bred with the American chicken “Jersey Giant”: in real at the artist’s studio in Meeuwen (B) and ‘artificially’ (i.e. in the form of a transparent glass chicken) at the Miami Art Fair, USA. The “Mechelse Giant’ was the subject of an installation presented at the exhibition “3 FEB 2002”, curated by Edith Doove, at the Museum Dhondt-Dhaenens in Deurle (B).
The “Malinese Giant” was at his turn cross-bred with the German “Dresdner Huhn”, a fully German hen (the race was made to remember the bombing of Dresden). This cross-breeding too happened at the studio of the artist. Most stunning is the fact that the cross-breeding of the Dresdner cock with the Malinese Giant hen procreated only male chicks!
In the spring of 2003 the cross-breeding of the “Mechelse Dresdner” with the Dutch hen “Uilebaard” (Owlbeard) effected two exhibitions in Amsterdam. First there was the exhibition “Koen Vanmechelen – “Cosmopolitan Chicken Project – Mechelse Dresdner – The Desire” at the De Brakke Grond, which was meant as an appeal to Dutch institutions to patron the cross-breeding of the Malinese Dresdner with the Dutch Owlbeard. The exhibition resulted in the acceptance of the GEM – the museum for contemporary art of The Hague to patron the cross-breeding with the Dutch hen and in the presentation of the “Mechelse Owlbeard”, the sixth generation of the Cosmopolitan Chicken at the KunstRAI in Amsterdam. Due to the influenza aviaria disease that at that time struck both Holland and Belgium the 2 exhibitions in Amsterdam were set up without living animals.
In September 2003 Koen did a second one-man show at Deweer Art Gallery, entitled “Koen Vanmechelen – Cosmopolitan Chicken Project – Second Generation: Mechelse Bresse – Sex & Mortality”. It was an exhibition about the now naturally dying out first and second generations of the “Cosmopolitan Chicken Project”, and about the off-spring of life in general.
In November 2003 Koen Vanmechelen undertook a second expedition to Nepal to study the Bankiva hen, the so-called ‘primal chicken’, from which all domesticated chickens descend.
In the mean time the cross-breeding of the Malinese Owlbeard with the Mexican “Louisiana” was organised in Meeuwen to originate the “Mechelse Louisiana”.
In his current installation for “ECLiPS / 25 Years Deweer Art Gallery “ at Transfo Zwevegem Koen Vanmechelen brings forward a Malinese Owlbeard cock in surveillance of thousands of fresh eggs.

Obviously, “The Cosmopolitan Chicken Project ” is a project with a high metaphorical value that touches a lot of contemporary social issues such as genetic manipulation, cloning, globalisation, multiraciality, multicultural society etc.
Although the artist has a lot of inspiring contacts with the medical and scientific world, “The Cosmopolitan Chicken” has found its ideal setting in the art world.
From the project spring an endless series of works, such as great chicken portraits, drawings, installations, stuffed chickens, story boards, videos etc.

Together with Dr Ombelet, a gynaecologist, the artist publishes “The Walking Egg”, an English magazine in which ethicists, philosophers and scientists debate about all sorts of procreation items. Koen Vanmechelen joins in with artistic reflecNons. The Cosmopolitan Chicken has nothing to do with cloning, but it goes without saying that the artist follows with great interest and attention those congresses. “The chicken wants to be in the middle of natural breeding and genetic manipulation” he says. “We should never forget the natural breeding. It is full of surprises”.

Koen Vanmechelen