Tanya Lewis of Live Science explains how advances in biotechnology could enable scientists to bring extinct animals back from the grave:
First popularized by Michael Crichton’s novel “Jurassic Park,” the process of de-extinction has become more than a sci-fi concept. In 2003, biologists brought back a Pyrenean ibex by making a clone of frozen tissues harvested from the last of these goats. The clone died within minutes of its birth due to a lung deformity, but the experiment proved de-extinction was possible. [6 Extinct Animals That Could Be Brought Back to Life] “We can use some of these techniques to actually help endangered species improve their long-term viability,” said ecologist Stanley Temple of the University of Wisconsin-Madison. “Where it gets controversial is when we start talking about species that have been extinct for a very long period of time,” Temple said.
Take the passenger pigeon as an example:
The world’s last passenger pigeon, Martha, died in 1914 at the Cincinnati Zoo in Ohio. Writer and environmentalist Stewart Brand, founder of the Whole Earth Catalog, and his wife Ryan Phelan, founder of the genetics company DNA Direct, wondered if it were possible. Working with Harvard biologist George Church, they figured out a possible way to revive passenger pigeons. You can’t simply clone a passenger pigeon museum specimen, because they no longer have fully intact genomes. But there could be another way: Using fragments of the passenger pigeon DNA, scientists could synthesize the genes for certain traits and splice the genes together into the genome of a rock pigeon. The cells containing the passenger pigeon DNA could be transformed into cells that produce eggs and sperm, which could be injected into rock pigeon eggs. The pigeons that hatched would be rock pigeons, but their offspring would resemble passenger pigeons. Scientists could then breed these birds and select for specific traits, as a dog breeder might. Eventually the resulting offspring would appear very much like the passenger pigeon.