De-extinction is now a thing. That means, bringing an extinct species back to life. But does that only exist in Jurassic Park, or is that real science? Just this year, advances in the ‘de-extinction’ process have allowed scientists to map entire extinct genomes, the first step to bringing back a species. Check the list of 10 animals that we could welcome back.
- Passenger Pigeon
Once a regular flying object over Wisconsin skies, the last pigeon died in a Cincinnati Zoo in 1914.
They were shot indiscriminately, and used in everything from feathers to food.
Now though, there’s an ambitious plan to bring them back. A bunch of scientists want to revive and restore the once-common bird.
That involves creating viable passenger pigeon DNA, and injecting it into eggs of band-tailed pigeons. Then, when band-tailed pigeons breed, their eggs would become passenger pigeon eggs.
The goal is to reach 10,000 passenger pigeons by 2040.
- Tasmanian Tiger
The last Tasmanian tiger died in captivity in September 1936 after being hunted to the brink of extinction by humans. But scientists are using gene-sequencing to bring them back from the dead.
In 2017, scientists successfully sequenced its genome using genetic material from a specimen of a four-week old Tasmanian tiger.
Now, they’re exploring the next phrase of cloning using a pioneering cloning technique developed by Harvard geneticist George Church.
- Irish Elk
One the largest deer ever to walk the Earth, the Irish elks were another victim to the ice age.
But scientists say they are the prime candidates for de-extinction, precisely because it died-off in the ice age.
Essentially, to successfully clone an extinct animal, scientists require DNA that is wholly intact.
So the permafrost was a good way of ensuring the animals were kept together.
Now, scientist are gathering samples of Irish elk in the North pole’s melting permafrost.
- Steller’s Sea Cow
The steller’s sea cow, a cousin of the modern-day manatee and dugong, became extinct 1768.
Once abundant in the Pacific ocean, it’s believed that they were like many other animals, hunted to extinction.
That’s because sailors killed so many sea cows during their voyages – a single sea cow could feed an entire crew of 33 sailors for a month!
Now, de-extinction scientists are experimenting with dugong DNA to bring them back.
- Pyrenean Ibex
The Pyrenean ibex died out at the turn of the 21st century, after being over-hunted.
In 2009, it became the first species to undergo de-extinction, after being cloned from a female pyrenean ibex.
However, the clone only lived for seven minutes, before succumbing to a lung defect.
The team that carried out the process say they plan to continue the experiments.
- Great Auk
Like a penguin, but not quite.
Before extinction, failed attempts were made to limit hunting for the great auk.
In 1844, the final colony on an island off Iceland were hunted down.
Now, a US research institute want to recreate the species. The team of scientists will use characteristic genes of the great auk and put them into nearest living relative, the razorbill.
The embryos would then be implanted into a goose, which would lay a great auk egg.
Closely-related to Bison, the aurochs are an ancestor of common cattle that lived on farms in Asia, Europe and Africa.
The last one died in a forest in Poland in 1627.
Now, they are part of a de-extinction plan that started in 2009.
Called ‘Operation Taurus’, the program has bred almost 300 calves with aurochs DNA, by a process called back-breeding.
Selected breeds of cattle that have more distinctive auroch characteristics are inter-bred, so that each successive generation of calves resembles the original aurochs in appearance and genetic makeup.
- Caspian Tiger
Caspian tigers roamed mostly in Turkey and Asia but went extinct in the 1960s.
Some scientists want to bring them back by reintroducing the nearly-identical Siberian tiger to its old habitats, where they believe it will adapt.
Now conservation biologists have published plans to bring them back using the closely-related Amur tigers.
They’re aiming to breed about 100 of them within the next 50 years, in a Kazakhstan wetland.
In 2007, scientists found the best-preserved dodo skeleton, which they believe hold precious DNA samples that could be used in the de-extinction process.
And in February 2018, Harvard University scientists successfully reconstructed the genome of the bird.
Now, they’re looking to reverse engineer the genome of a stem cell from a closely related pigeon species and turn that cell into eggs and sperm, which could produce dodos.
- Woolly Mammoth
Thanks to permafrost, woolly mammoth carcases have been maintained in almost perfect condition, supplying scientists with well-preserved DNA.
Now, in an attempt to bring them back by 2019, Harvard scientists are working with elephant chromosomes to understand how mammoth DNA is structured.
They’re also going a step further to help them survive better, by engineering the genome to be herpes-resistant.
Scientists believe that herpes infections were responsible for their extinction.