Demystifying De-Extinction

Every species becomes extinct eventually. Animals such as the woolly mammoth and passenger pigeon are one of the many species who failed to leave behind descendants that could adapt to their surroundings and carry on their genetic lineage. But what if there was a process that could bring extinct species back to life? Scientists are getting closer to making this a reality thanks to de-extinction.

Scientists first attempted this in 2003 with the last living Bucardo Goat named Celia. They took nuclei from Celia’s cells and injected them into 57 goat eggs that had their DNA removed. Only one goat successfully became pregnant with a clone of Celia but due to complications the baby clone ended up dying 10 minutes after being brought back from extinction.

The next animal scientists want to try this process on is the passenger pigeon. They determined that the closest living relative is the Band-Tailed Pigeon so they are hoping to use the Band-Tailed Pigeons genome as a map to fill in the blanks of what is left of the passenger pigeon’s DNA. Bringing the passenger pigeon back to life proves to be a complicated process however, with several rounds of inbreeding that would need to take place until there is a species becomes more and more like the passenger pigeon.

With a scientific finding as major as bringing animals out of extinction, there are advocates as well as opponents. While some say that these efforts are necessary to preserve life that once existed on Earth, some experts are concerned de-extinction is a waste of time and resources and that we should instead focus our efforts on preserving endangered species.

As the debate continues, scientists are still making progress. In 2015 the entire genome of a woolly mammoth was sequenced, bringing us even further into the world of de-extinction.


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