Scientists plan to ‘resurrect’ the dodo after sequencing its entire genome

biotech company Colossal Biosciences He always makes headlines for his projects that seek to bring extinct animals back to life, such as the Tasmanian tiger and the woolly mammoth. Now she’s added another spice to his wish list: the dodoa flightless bird twice the size of a turkey that became extinct around 1662.

According to the American company, this will be possible because, last year, its team of scientists sequenced the complete DNA of an ancient specimen that remained well preserved in a Danish museum.

The plan to resurrect the dodo

Beth Shapiro, lead geneticist for the project and a specialist in ancient DNA at the University of California, has outlined the steps to carry out the process of “de-extinction” of the dodo in an interview with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

First, they will compare the genetic information of the dodo with that of the Nicobar pigeon (the only living species of the genus Caloenas) to find out what the particular mutations of the extinct bird are.

Then they will try to genetically modify the Nicobar pigeon, turning it step by step into a dodo. In other words, it would not be one as such, but a new species, say some specialists unrelated to the project. If they succeed in this task, the ultimate plan would be to reintroduce the new dodos to the island of Mauritius, where they originally lived.

To date, Colossal Bioscience has not created any type of dodo-like animal, as they are still developing the necessary technology. According to Ben Lamm, the company’s CEO, there is still no definitive date for this project, as there is for the “de-extinction of the woolly mammoth”, which could arrive before 2029.

Reality or fiction?

Revive & Restore, a nonprofit organization that has been working for a decade to bring back the homing pigeon, says there’s a problem with bringing extinct birds back to life: while it’s easy to genetically edit bird cells in the lab , it is difficult to turn those same ones back into a real bird.

In mammals, the solution is to clone an embryo, but this method doesn’t work with a bird egg: it’s a huge cell and its nucleus is an opaque yolk. “You’d have to remove it and implant another nucleus, and it’s impossible to do,” says Mike McGrew, an avian biologist at the Roslin Institute in Edinburgh who is a paid adviser to Colossal.