Cyborg Roaches, Glow-in-the-Dark Fish, and Other Biotechnology Beasts

By  | Posted Monday, Feb. 25, 2013, at 10:34 AM

Cyborg Beetle 4-MM

A remote-controlled flying flower beetle.Photo courtesy Michel Maharbiz.

This article arises from Future Tense, a partnership of Slate, the New America Foundation, and Arizona State University. On Feb. 28-March 2, Future Tense will be taking part in Emerge, an annual conference on ASU’s Tempe campus about what the future holds for humans. This year’s theme: the future of truth. Visit the Emerge website to learn more and to get your ticket.

I have seen the future of animals and it is glowing. Literally.

Three years ago, I set out to explore the world of animal biotechnology, to see just how scientists were using advances in genetics, electronics, and materials science to totally re-engineer and re-invent animal bodies.

I discovered that researchers were genetically engineering cats—and monkeys and mice—that glowed electric green under a black light. They were cloning pets, livestock, and endangered species. And they were using neural implants to create remote-controlled, cyborg critters.

Mr. Green Genes 2-ACRES

Mr. Green Genes under a black light.Photo courtesy Audubon Nature Institute.

That wasn’t entirely shocking; biotechnology moves fast, and scientists are capable of dreaming up, and then achieving, remarkable things. What did take me by surprise, however, was how many of these sci-fi, futuristic critters have already made their way out of the laboratory and into our farms, fields, and families.

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