In this interview on National Geographic, Simon Worrall speaks to science writer Maura O’Connor, author of Resurrection Science: Conservation, De-Extinction And The Precarious Future of Wild Things, who believes that in the next decade excting species could be brought back to life.
What Novak and his team at the University of California, Santa Cruz, hope to do is use the genetic material of its nearest living relative, the fantailed pigeon. There’s no frozen tissue so you can’t clone a passenger pigeon. By using genetic editing tools they’ll alter the DNA of a fantailed pigeon to passenger pigeon DNA.
Once they’ve been able to genetically modify a fantailed pigeon, they hope to incubate that genetic material in other fantailed pigeons to produce passenger pigeons.
If everything progresses as Novak hopes, we might have a passenger pigeon again in ten years. But there’s a whole other process of trying to figure out how you teach this animal to be a passenger pigeon. It’s not just DNA. There’s also animal culture and the relationship between ecology and species. And it’s far from clear that scientists understand how they could bring back those types of relationships.
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