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Name: Caleb
Status: Other
Grade:  9-12
Location: MI
Country: United States
Date: June 2007


Question:
Would it be possible to mix a Spider and a Scorpion using genetic engineering? Has this been done before?



Replies:
At this point in time, most genetic engineering involves moving one or just a few genes between species. for example, scientists have inserted a gene for human insulin into bacteria so that the bacteria will make the insulin, but that doesn't make the bacteria more "human". The science hasn't progressed to the point where we can make true hybrids between species and, frankly, why would we want to do that? What would you want a spider to do that a scorpion can or vice versa?

KVH


We know very little about spider and scorpion genomes, first. And with tens of thousands of spider species, there is much genetic diversity among spiders. Some jumping spiders (the spiders that have the most DNA) have ten times more genetic material than some orb spiders (the least DNA). The same may be true of scorpions as well, although I don't know a lot about them.

I am not aware of any kind of mix of spider and scorpion today. So I will just talk about if it would be possible in the future. When you say 'mix', there are different kinds of things you could mean.

One option is to take one or two genes from one organism and insert them into the other. While humans haven't attempted this (that I'm aware of), this is the most imminently possible 'mix'. There is a lot of research into scorpion venom, and using these genes to make anti-venom medicines might be a reason to use them in genetic engineering. However, this would not likely make a "spider with a scorpion tail"; the differences could be very minor and/or hard to see.

To make a hybrid scorpion-spider mix is much more difficult, and would take a lot effort and a very long time to produce. Some hybrids are possible if the genomes are sufficiently alike (like the mule, a horse-donkey cross), but I don't know of any spiders and scorpions alike enough for this to occur. Life is extremely complicated, and mixing unlike genomes would be like taking a bunch of SUV and compact car parts and mixing them in a big bowl and expecting mid-size pickup to come out. It will be a long time before we are able (or even try I suspect) to do this with unlike species.

The most important question is what would you name a spider-scorpion hybrid? A spidion? A scorpider? Or something new, like "arachzitor"?

Hope this helps,
Burr



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