This is how a private company plans to ‘resurrect’ the dodo

The American company Colossal Biosciences, which claims to be an expert in ‘de-extinctions‘, has managed to decipher the complete genome of dodo, a flightless bird that completely disappeared more than 350 years ago. Company sources affirm that the milestone, together with a novel technique based on stem cells, means that they are already much closer to ‘resurrecting’ this animal, extinct since the 17th century.

But the dodo is just the latest on the list of missing animals that Colossal Biosciences intends to revive. Founded in 2021 by tech entrepreneur Ben Lamm and Harvard University geneticist George Church (which already in 2013 told ABC that it would be possible to resurrect a Neanderthal), the company first announced that it would bring the man back to life. land mammoth. And a year later he announced that he would do the same with the thylacine, better known as the Tasmanian Tiger.

However, among all extinct animals, the disappearance of the dodo tells a special story. It was a gangly bird, one meter tall and 20 kg in weight that looked silly (you’re dumber than a dodo) and instead of fearing humans, it walked happily among them, unfazed even when the sailors who arrived on the island of Mauritius, to which they were endemic, killed their closest companions. In addition, they only laid one egg and, after the arrival of the Dutch, their nests were also depredated by monkeys and rats that humans brought with them. If there was an animal that was inevitably destined to disappear, it was undoubtedly the dodo.

However, recent analysis has revealed that things were not as we were told, nor were the dodos as silly as they have been described. Far from it, the size of their brains suggests that they were at least as intelligent as pigeons. They weren’t geniuses, but they weren’t stupid either. His disappearance, in a sense, was the result of bad luck. The bad luck that the first Dutchmen who arrived on the island did not even intend to go there, but were driven by a storm. And the added bad luck that the first people to come across the bird were neither naturalists nor scientists who could document the new species.

A long and complex job

Of course, there is still a lot of work ahead before we can see the dodo again roaming the island of Mauritius, in the Indian Ocean and about 900 kilometers from Madagascar. Scientists, in fact, cannot recreate life from scratch, and therefore will first have to find a way to put the dodo-specific genes into the embryo of a living animal.

Which is not an easy task. The next step, as he explained to CNN Beth Shapiro, lead geneticist on the project, will compare the dodo’s genetic information with that of other closely related birds, such as the Nicobar pigeon or the ‘Rodrigues solitaire’, another type of extinct flightless giant pigeon, to discover the mutations “that make to a dodo in a dodo.” The ultimate plan, Shapiro continues, is to reintroduce these birds to Mauritius, where they lived before humans exterminated them.

It won’t exactly be a dodo

Let’s face it, if Colossal’s plans are successful, the result won’t be exactly a dodo, but rather a bird-like one. In Shapiro’s words, “it would be false to say that we are recreating something that is 100% identical to what existed in the past. What we are trying to do is create a representation of this species that is suited to the environments that exist today.”

The announcement, how could it be otherwise, has aroused notable reactions, both for and against the resurrection of extinct species. Proponents of this practice, for example, point out that advances in biotechnology, bioinformatics and genetics have long made it possible to create ‘mocks’ of extinct species, even if the process to do so is complex and lengthy. reintroducing those species to the wild could provide significant ecological benefits, and even help combat climate change.

Others, however, are not so optimistic, and refer to ‘de-extinction’ as a ‘fairy tale science’, which in addition to not returning species to the world as they were, could have unforeseeable consequences. We all remember the phrase Now Malcolm in the film Jurassic Park after the disaster that occurred on the island: “Their scientists were so worried about whether or not they could … that they did not stop to think if they should.”

By Editor

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