A ‘startup’ specialized in bringing extinct animals back to life has announced its plan to recover these peaceful birds, which were exterminated by indiscriminate hunting in the 17th century.
Two years ago, Harvard geneticist George Church and businessman Ben Lamm founded the biotech startup Colossal Biosciences, whose main goal is to bring extinct species back to life.
The first candidates for resurrection were very significant, the woolly mammoths, later joined by the Tasmanian tigers. Now, to this list have been added the dodo birds (‘Raphus cucullatus’).
The dodo, or dronte, was an endemic inhabitant of the island of Mauritius, in the Indian Ocean. These large birds, which weighed up to 20 kilos, could not fly, but their life on the island was quite calm, for the simple reason that they had no predators.
However, in the early 17th century Mauritius became an important point on the routes of European sailors, and the defenseless and trusting dodos were easily and indiscriminately hunted. Decades of slaughter led to its total disappearance by the end of the century.
After its extinction, the dodo began to be considered a myth among exotic creatures. His total lack of fear towards humans made him a symbol of stupidity for some.
“Let’s be clear. The only really stupid creatures in this story are us humans,” Colossal said in a statement.
The company’s scientists decided to bring back the extinct animal by editing the genome of the Nicobar pigeon, its closest living relative, a species of pigeon endemic to certain Indian Ocean islands. The project already has $150 million in allocations.
After sequencing the genome, Colossal geneticists will create an embryo that will grow in an artificial mother.
The first hatchling of the ‘resurrected’ dodo is expected to arrive in about six years. The team of paleogenetics Beth Shapiro, who leads the project, sequenced for the first time (the project plans to sequence several) the genome of the extinct bird in March 2022.