Is life on an ark really possible?

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1. The animals went in two by two

The idea of an ark is an old one.

Most of us have heard the tale of Noah's ark - the magical procession of animal pairs onto a large boat which saved these species from catastrophic floods that lasted 40 days and 40 nights.

But this is merely a tale. Arks can’t really exist... can they?

2. Surviving against the odds

The romantic notion of animals finding salvation in a boat remains - and in March 2013 it was remarkably realised. A small open topped fishing boat was swept from the coast of Japan when the devastating tsunami raged across the Far East in 2011.

It appears that the vessel filled with water and provided a home for 30 stowaway species including a striped beak fish. When the boat finally reached Washington state in the US, this fish was too young to have survived the entire journey.

3. The journey from Japan to America

Two years after the Japanese tsunami, a fishing boat from that area came ashore on the coast of Washington state, USA. Click on a country to find out a bit more about this remarkable journey.

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4. A functional ecosystem

The fish had either jumped ship from the waters around Hawaii where the craft may have drifted en route or, even more remarkably, it was the result of breeding inside the boat. It appears that this tiny body of water carried by the boat was a functional ecosystem; a capsule of life that travelled thousands of miles across the ocean.

It reveals something of the way species have probably travelled around the world to colonise new islands and continents. These global hitch-hikers are accidental tourists with enormous potential to survive against seemingly impossible odds.

5. What counts as a modern day ark?

Arks don’t have to be boats, so which of these could also be considered a biological 'ark'.

Kew Seed Bank

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Kew Seed Bank

Yes, The Millennium Seed Bank at Kew currently protects 13% of the world’s wild plant species in case of extinction.

Genebank DNA database

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Genebank DNA database

This is an interesting option as Genebank isn’t a traditional ark, but it is a giant biological database holding millions of DNA sequences for the future.

A zoo

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Yes, even though zoos keep animals in enclosures for public display, many do important conservation work with critically endangered animals.