In search of ponies: Glowing sheep not so baaaa-d

It's long been understood that nature has balance and us humans have come to understand — usually about the time we realize we've destroyed an ecosystem — that here are reasons why things are the way they are.

That's not to say improvements can't be made, but for each forced (or man-made) change, it makes perfect sense that something else will get knocked a little out of whack, kind of like the idea time travelers would wreak havoc if they changed even the slightest thing.

Now it may be going out on a limb, but glowing sheep seem to tip-toe maybe a little, itsy bitsy bit towards said territory.

Maybe on the surface being a glowing sheep doesn't really change anything — even if it does involve a little stirring and shaking of the ol' DNA — because it is just superficial.

Perhaps the meat tastes the same, their wool makes sweaters and socks just as warm as any other (with the bonus of putting wearers on the "A- list" for raves) and during daylight, from a distance they look like boulders dotting the hillside, just like millions of sheep have before them.

Recently, scientists in Uruguay announced they've successfully spliced jellyfish DNA into sheep, giving the nine resulting offspring – born in October — glowing characteristics.

In news accounts of the revelation the researchers have been quick to say they didn't do it for financial gain, but rather for the educational and medical value.

They have said the genetic methods and even the sheep themselves (through milk production) may provide vital solutions for some human medical disorders.

It's hard to deny that such research would definitely expand the capabilities of science and could very well offer some much needed medical answers.

And in all fairness to them, the Uruguayan project is not the first of its kind, with several other researcher teams producing glowing critters in the recent past.

But if this is the jet stream science is riding, we might want to ask what ramifications might grow out of a superficial genetic change to a species.

Setting aside for a moment any ethical and moral questions of animal testing or research, there are some more basic issues at hand.

Sure, it's ironic to make sheep glow, essentially proving correct (or at least manifesting) beliefs held by ancient cultures that the stars were in fact flocks of sheep being herded through the night sky — which makes it a little hard to believe we've surpassed our predecessors intellectually if they actually called it when we just thought they were simple-minded.

And, if the Serta sheep weren't already worried about their jobs, they have to be terrified now, because counting sheep just got exponentially easier.

But what of Little Bo Peep?

Future children, in tandem with their nursery rhymes, will need detailed explanations about how hard it was to find sheep in the dark back in the olden times when they didn't glow.

Sheep dogs, on the other hand, will probably have to work twice as hard now that their charges have been genetically issued targets to wear.

Then again, the sheep might fare better in the long run, since in nature, traits like bright colors and glowing are generally reserved to warn predators — and there's little doubt that any hungry wolf who crosses paths with one of those mutton chops is bound to withdraw in terror — who's wearing whose clothes now!

In the long run, it's really not so much about the sheep, who will probably never even know they glow and be unchanged psychologically by the whole thing, but the potential impact on the world psyche — now that's a sheep of another color.

Sharna Johnson is a writer who is always searching for ponies. You can reach her at: insearchofponies@gmail.com or on the web at: www.insearchofponies.blogspot.com

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