Extinction company is trying to resurrect the dodo
Even if Colossal can make what it calls “a working proxy for the dodo,” there won’t be a clear answer as to where to put it. The big agricultural industry in Mauritius is the cultivation of sugar cane, and there are plenty of rats and other non-native predators around. “It wouldn’t really be a dodo, it would be a new species. But it still needs an environment,” says Jennifer Li Pook Than, a genetic sequencing specialist at Stanford University, whose parents were born on the island. “What would that mean ethically, if there were none? »
Lamm does not offer a firm timeframe for producing a dodo. He predicted that the mammoth could arrive before 2029 and the dodo could arrive sooner or later, depending on scientific factors.
Another organization, the nonprofit Revive & Restore, has been working for a decade to bring back the passenger pigeon, a bird that once dominated the American skies. But he ran into a major technical difficulty that will also affect the dodo project.
The problem is that while it’s easy to genetically modify bird cells in the lab, it’s difficult to turn carefully modified cells into a bird. For mammals, such as cattle or elephants, the answer is simple: cloning. But cloning doesn’t work with a bird’s egg – it’s a huge cell, and its nucleus is an opaque yolk. “You’d have to remove it and implant another core, and that’s impossible to do,” McGrew said.
McGrew thinks the likely solution is to inject genetically modified cells into the gonads of a developing pigeon. This way, some of these cells will eventually form the new bird’s egg or sperm. If that bird then breeds, its offspring will be linked to the donor’s cells (and include all DNA changes). This technology is already working, says McGrew, but so far only in chickens.
“They need to be able to transfer that technology to a pigeon,” he says. “We thought what worked for chickens would apply to other species, but it’s proving difficult.”
These kinds of hurdles explain why some scientists doubt that de-extinction works, and Shapiro herself has been among the skeptics, expressing doubts about the idea in interviews last year.
However, the geneticist says she has changed her mind and now sees deextinction as a useful form of science public relations. “At first, I was really like, ‘I don’t know about this technology,’” Shapiro says. “But little by little, I came to think that this is the future. We need to develop these tools and additional approaches to be able to protect species today from extinction. And if we’re going to get people excited enough to do that, we’re gonna have to throw something big out there, and everybody’s heard of the dodo.