Can Online Dating Save our Endangered Species?

By Danielle Pope

Can Online Dating Save our Endangered Species?
Swipe right for the survival of our species...

It seems almost farcical, but the survival of some of the world’s endangered animals looks to be greatly improved thanks to the technology behind online dating.

Popular dating sites use algorithms to process a person’s profile and then calculate how suited you are to other users of the site. Using the same technology, researchers at Flinders University in South Australia have created computer software inspired by how these dating sites work. Aptly named SWINGER, the program uses an algorithm to process DNA to partner-up endangered animals for captive breeding.


Concept photography of chicks showing math basics.

Whilst hobbies, likes and dislikes clearly cannot be processed for the animal candidates, what can be used is the animal’s DNA to ensure a safe breeding process. According to program developer Dr Jonathan Sandoval-Castillo, this analysis was previously unavailable in the past. “Our matchmaking algorithm then takes this information and uses it to design breeding groups consisting of the least related individuals,” he explains. “This allows genetically healthy offspring and the maintenance of genetic diversity.”

This is particularly pertinent to the breeding of endangered species, where numbers can be so low that the risk of inbreeding is very real.

The first endangered species being saved using the matchmaking algorithm is a rare breed of rainbowfish found in the Running River in northern Queensland. “Hopefully in the future there will be ‘plenty of fish’ in the wild for the Running River rainbowfish,” quips Dr Sandoval-Castillo.

Have you always wondered how dating algorithms work? Watch this fascinating explanation from Ok Cupid founder Christian Rudder:



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