Company trying to bring back woolly mammoth wants to resurrect dodo

WTF?! In what sounds unsettlingly like the plot of a certain movie franchise, scientists are trying to bring an extinct species back to life. Fortunately, this is not a dinosaur, but a dodo, a flightless bird native to Mauritius that was destroyed in the 17th century.

Colossal Biosciences previously announced that it plans to bring back the woolly mammoth and thylacine, also known as the Tasmanian tiger. The Dallas, Texas-based company has now set their sights on resurrecting the dodo, or at least a semblance of it. This method involves the use of gene-editing technology that has never been used in this way before in birds.

Beth Shapiro, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of California, Santa Cruz, said it has already completely sequenced the dodo genome from ancient DNA based on genetic material recovered from dodo remains in Denmark.

Like scientific America explains, bringing back an extinct animal or a member of it involves editing the genome of a closely related living species—in this case, the Nicobar pigeon—to replicate the genome of the target species. In mammalian species, gene editing material is implanted in the reproductive system of related species. For the dodo, the edited genome will be implanted into the egg, which has never been done before.

The problem is that cloning a bird requires access to an egg that is ready to be fertilized but not yet fertilized. “There is no access to a bird egg at the same time of development as a mammal,” Shapiro said. The solution may lie in an existing method that involves removing the primordial germ cells — the embryonic precursors of sperm and eggs — from the egg, editing the cells with the desired genetic traits, and then injecting them back into the developing egg.

Sharipo emphasized that they would not create an exact copy of the dodo. “We’re trying to isolate the genes that make dodos different,” she said. “It would be madness to think that the solution [to the world’s biodiversity crisis] should have returned the proxy.”

Colossal has raised an additional $150 million for dodo research, although plans are still at a very early stage. CEO Ben Lamm said the recreation of the birds will be “restored” in Mauritius, where they became extinct in the 1600s due to sailors who hunted them and brought the invasive species across the Indian Ocean on their ships. He added that the work could help conservation efforts for endangered species by allowing scientists to distinguish and preserve their key traits.

Images: Wikimedia

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