It's hard to create a new animal from scratch.

  • If you genetically modify an existing species until it becomes a drastically different species, then implant the fertilized embryo in a female of the original species, the offspring will not survive birth. This means you can't make drastic genetic changes the traditional way - it will kill the animals before they're even born.

  • Naturally evolving a new, complex organism can take billions of years, and I don't have that time

Therefore, some other, method must be employed to physically construct the first organism, or kick off the lineage, off a completely unique, lab-made species.

Assume scientists have already decided on the genes this species will possess, and rightfully deemed it fit to survive in the wild - if the first mother of the species could only be born. It's multi-cellular, and will not give birth until a minimum of 20 years into its life.

How do you physically create the first individual of a unique species?

My thoughts so far

  • A base species could be modified, a few genes at a time, every generation, until the new species' genome could be implanted via embryo and survive birth. I'm not too fond of this approach because it involves a lot of waiting (hundreds of generations).
  • A machine could act as an artificial uterus for the first individual(s) of the species. Starting with a single embryo, it could feed in nutrients and maintain the desired conditions. However, accurately creating so many tissues and organs in an artificial environment seems difficult to me.
  • $\begingroup$ Note that scientists use the first method on a regular basis for simple multicellular species: some animals (e.g. flies) have a very short lifespan, so a hundred generations is actually shorter than a human pregnancy. $\endgroup$ – Taladris Dec 24 '16 at 14:16
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    $\begingroup$ @vsz Not enough data? We understand the structure of DNA and have sequenced numerous genomes in the past; we've created synthetic bacteria, and we've done genetic modification. We understand these processes to a good enough extent. $\endgroup$ – Zxyrra Dec 24 '16 at 19:30
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    $\begingroup$ @vsz: First Live Organism with Synthetic Genome Created. That was in 2010. $\endgroup$ – AlexP Dec 24 '16 at 19:35
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    $\begingroup$ You might find this interesting: extremetech.com/extreme/… $\endgroup$ – Thom Blair III Dec 25 '16 at 2:09
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    $\begingroup$ I remember reading that although human DNA had been fully mapped, they discovered that epigenetics played as big or bigger of a role in trait manifestation. In addition, I also saw a news article saying they just recently discovered that the actual angles of the molecules in the genetic codes made a significant difference in how the genes worked. I have not been able to refind that article unfortunately. But, my point is that the more we learn about all the different factors involved in manifesting a specific trait, the more we learn we have lots more to learn. $\endgroup$ – Thom Blair III Dec 25 '16 at 2:15

You only need four things:

  1. Immune system compatibility. This is trivial. In lab you can just keep mother on immunosuppresants. Done.

  2. Compatible size and pregnancy time.. Again, this is easy, as you would probably use species of similar birth size & time in the first place.

  3. Good proportion of substances in umbilical cord. This can be fixed by IV if needed.

  4. Implantation of the egg. This is a tricky part. You need to be careful when setting up genes for this process. Preferably rip them whole from mother 0 species and call it a day.

Alternatively, go with eggs. If your organism does not need to give live birth, it would not need a mother. This is a route I'd prefer.

Probably there is more to it, but our science is at single cell synthetic life now, and we are yet to see what will happen.

  • $\begingroup$ Won't keeping the mother on immunosuppresants endanger the fetus? Something tells me that would cause problems, as much as I'd like to do so $\endgroup$ – Zxyrra Dec 24 '16 at 14:26
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    $\begingroup$ @Zxyrra it would hurt immune system of first generation. So what? Third one will have no trace of this effect. $\endgroup$ – Mołot Dec 24 '16 at 14:29

You Don't Need A Living Creature

In your question, you said that you are at the technological level where you can genetically engineer a new species. So this is obviously a high level of technological advancement compared to now. So if you have that technology, then why don't you have others?

First you need a container filled with lab-made embryonic fluid. Keep that at the appropriate temperature. Then provide a facsimile of the mother's womb, and connect that to a source of nutrients.

I'm sure if your society can create a new species through genetic manipulation, then you can make a "pod" for it to grow in. There is much less risk, much simpler. You may also be able to re-use most things in this method for the first of the other gender.

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    $\begingroup$ I disagree with the "why don't you have others?" statement. We practically can engineer new species with modern gene-editing, and we've come close to making fully synthetic bacteria in the past. Yet artificial wombs still seem to be science-fiction. $\endgroup$ – Zxyrra Dec 24 '16 at 16:57
  • $\begingroup$ @Zxyrra While that is true, we have come nowhere near the ability to genetically change a creature to a new, distinct species. It's like changing a poodle to a Chihuahua as opposed to changing an alligator to a platypus. And what we've done is nowhere near even that, it is just bacteria. $\endgroup$ – Xandar The Zenon Dec 24 '16 at 17:09
  • $\begingroup$ Agreed. Artificial wombs are plausible to expect by the time "we" can engineer a new complex species. They'd likely be developed to support practical experimentation with modifying existing species once it becomes an economically attractive endeavor done large scale. $\endgroup$ – user2338816 Dec 24 '16 at 17:46

Scientists can already "create" cell lines and mutant strains(single cells, drosophilia, zebra fish, worms like caerabinopsis elegans, dog, cats,...) by genetic recombination. Actually in your case, the "egg" implantation may work well because I guess that modifying just a few gene wont modify the compatibility of mother/mutant offspring that much. Note that only a few genes can alter strongly the phenotype (the appearance of your species or its ability and characteristics, like life span). In fact it was suggested to create a Mammoth embryo and implant it into a elephant. Humans have after all only 2% genetic differences with Chimpanzee.

So to as an biologist, I would say

1 - genetic recombination and egg implantation should work if species are close enough (size matters usually). Taking into account immunological properties as suggested above may make it more believable.

2 - Alternative is to grow your species in a pod with embryonic fluid. Some tissues sheets can easily be grown in lab culture, and recently even some organs ! Artificial embryonic sacks are thus plausible in a close future, and could be used in various situations.

3 - if you want a single organism that create offsrping and evolve without any interaction with a male, it is absolutely possible. There exist several mode of "duplication" of the organisms. By Fission, you can separate the body into 2 (usually for microbes), Division and regenaration (in that case you have the same genome accros multiple generations), but if you want to create evolution and diversification within your species, you probably need a sexual species that can use auto-fertilization. Some intringing lizards and frogs species do it :) The change of sex mostly depend on environmental conditions, such as temperature. I suggest you to google evolutionary website to check the strange sexual reproduction modes.

  • $\begingroup$ "Humans have after all only 2% genetic differences with Chimpanzee" and yet cross-species reproduction does not (can not(?)) occur, and the question describes drastically different species which presumably have a difference much greater than 2%. $\endgroup$ – Zxyrra Dec 30 '16 at 11:49
  • $\begingroup$ I like your second point (2.) +1 $\endgroup$ – Zxyrra Dec 30 '16 at 11:50
  • $\begingroup$ @zxyrra The human / chimp species barrier is our chromosome count. We have one more pair. At some point in recent hominid evolution one chimp chromosome split into two. Hybridization becomes next to impossible thereafter because first generation would inherit an odd number of chromosomes and an even split of an odd number is impossible. Same problem explains sterility of mules (donkey/ horse hybrid) $\endgroup$ – nigel222 Dec 30 '16 at 15:02
  • $\begingroup$ Absolutely Zxyrra, to me 2% is a huge difference. Probably you expect even more different 2%. I did not talk about cross-reproduction because i though it wasnt the goal in your question. To focus on the embryo, my point is that in a SF world, a well-designed engineered genome could surely makes the embryo compatible with its ancestor for development until maturation. Or, you could imaging a parasite-like development in the engineered species, in which case the problem of DNA is solved? Many parasite live within the hosts until full size maturation which can result in killing the host. $\endgroup$ – user31616 Dec 31 '16 at 2:22

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