SCIENTISTS are attempting to bring back the dodo, a bird that became extinct in the 17th century.
You may have heard the famous expression “as dead as a dodo”. Soon, that expression may itself be dead! A US firm called Colossal Biosciences, which describes itself as a “de-extinction company”, has announced that it’s planning to use dodo genes within the body of a living relative of the bird to create a new version of the extinct species.
Genes are found in all living creatures and control how an animal grows and functions. The team behind this project are already working on reviving the woolly mammoth, which became extinct around 4,000 years ago.
But this is the first time they’ve worked on bringing a bird back. Scientists plan to work with pigeons – thought to be the closest relative to the dodo – by changing their genes to reflect aspects of the dodo. They can access the dodo’s genes by taking samples from dodo remains that have been preserved for hundreds of years.
Colossal Biosciences has raised $225 million (£190 million) since 2021 to fund its research into bringing back extinct creatures. Its founder, Ben Lamm, says that the plan would be to return the new version of the dodo to the wild in Mauritius, where it lived until its last sighting in the 1600s.
Mr Lamm says that his company’s scientific research could help with conservation efforts for species at risk of extinction. He says scientists will be able to identify aspects of those species that could be kept and adapted to keep them alive.
But not everyone thinks this is a good idea. Some scientists think we should be focused on preserving living species that are at risk of extinction. They argue that the money used to bring back dead species could be better spent protecting those that are still alive.
Others think it’s wrong to use gene editing to “play God” by bringing back long-dead creatures.