Dodo Extinction: How scientists aim to revive an iconic species (2023)

The wildlife of Mauritius, a tropical island in the Indian Ocean about 500 miles east of Madagascar, could not have known that the giant shadows cast across the bay in 1598 would be a sign of doom.

A fleet of Dutch ships had arrived, mirroring the Chicxulub asteroid that had crashed into the Yucatan peninsula some 66 million years earlier.

This rogue rock ended the reign of the dinosaurs in dramatic fashion. However, the threat posed by their modern relatives, creatures like the blue dove, owl, and broad-billed parrot, by the Dutch fleet was far more insidious. The last one was not an explosive ending. It was slow: the sailors who colonized the island destroyed its natural habitat and introduced exotic species such as rats, pigs, and monkeys that could compete with the island's native residents for resources.

Some species disappeared before anyone noticed. But the most enduring emblem of the island's extinct species is undoubtedly the dodo, or Raphus cucullatus.

The dodo was exterminated no more than a century after the arrival of the Dutch. it is not clearexactlywhen because, at the time when the dodo roamed the jungles of Mauritius, the idea that any animal could cease to exist was absurd. "Extinction" was a word used to describe the suppression of fires, not the disappearance of entire species. What is clear, however, is that the extinction of the dodo was caused in part by us humans.

Now, Texas-based Colossal Biosciences thinks it can right that wrong.

The "Extinction Company" has attracted worldwide attention in its search forresurrecting the woolly mammothIt's inTasmanian Tiger. He believes that the resurrection of the dodo is also within the reach of science.

On January 31, Colossal announced the start of its dodo extinction project, thanks to a $150 million cash injection led by the US Innovative Technology Fund. The research will be overseen by Beth Shapiro, apaleogenetic fascinated by the bird for a long time, and hopes to one day introduce a "functional dodo" back to its native habitat in Mauritius.

The functional part is important. We can never perfectly recover a species that has gone extinct. It is impossible.

Dodo Extinction: How scientists aim to revive an iconic species (1)
(Video) Going Viral: $1B Startup Aims to Revive Extinct Dodo

"It would be false to say that we are recreating something 100% identical to something that already existed," says Shapiro. "What we're trying to do is create proxies for these species that are adapted to the environments that exist today."

As with all extinction efforts, there are still significant technological hurdles, ethical caveats, and unanswered questions.

Advocates of eliminating extinction point to how advances in biotechnology, bioinformatics, and genetics have made it possible to create simulacra of long-dead species, even if the process is difficult and time-consuming. They suggest that reintroducing these species into the wild could have ecological benefits and even help combat climate change.

Others remain unconvinced. Some researchers have dubbed eliminating extinction "fairytale science" and criticized Colossal's big-press approach. They often cite a family line, inextricably linked to de-extinction efforts, from Jurassic Park's Ian Malcolm: "Your scientists were so worried about whether or not they could...that they didn't stop to think if they should."

The question, then: should the Colossal extinguish the dodo?

bad luck bird

The dodo, throughout history, has been characterized as a fat, clumsy bird, too dumb to avoid its own demise; a tragic creature destined for extinction. Stories of his ineptitude persist to this day in illustrations and cultural works like Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, as well as in clichés like "dumb as a dodo."

In the last decade, we learned that these assumptions need to be reformulated.

Based on the size of its brain, the dodo probably had a level of intelligence comparable to one of its distant relatives, the pigeon. He wasn't a genius, but he wasn't a donkey either. For that reason, researchers like Leon Claessens, a professor of vertebrate paleontology and evolution at Maastricht University in the Netherlands, are running a free PR campaign to rehabilitate the bird's reputation. The story of the dodo is not about stupidity. Rather, Claessens suggests, it is a series of unfortunate events. It is a story about bad luck.

Start with our first recorded encounters with the dodo. Those Dutch sailors who stumbled across Mauritius weren't even trying to get to the island. They were blown off course by a violent storm. This meant that some of the first people to see the bird were sailors, not naturalists or scientists. There were no biologists on board to accurately document, record and sample to scientifically describe the species. Unlucky.

As trade with Mauritius increased and more Dutch arrived, there are reports of dodos being brought back to Europe and other parts of the world. It is believed that the number of living specimens that made the journey could be three or four. Although we do know from 17th century accounts that a live dodo made it to London.

After his death, it was kept and displayed in the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, but during the 18th century, one curator thought it was getting too mouldy. They cut it up and threw the specimen into the fire, with only the head and feet being saved. A foot later he disappeared. His whereabouts remain unknown.

Dodo Extinction: How scientists aim to revive an iconic species (2)
(Video) Scientists reviving DODO and MAMMOTH #science #technology

Today, the remaining soft tissue samples fit in a shoebox, Claessens says. "It's one tragedy after another to keep losing sight of this exciting bird," he says.

Scientists were able to make up for this dearth of physical specimens by visiting a Mauritian swamp known as Mare aux Songes. Well-preserved dodo fossils were discovered there in the mid-19th century, contributing to another explosion in our understanding of bird life and ecology, but by the 1940s, the site had fallen into disrepair due to an epidemic of malaria. Call it bad luck.

In the last two decades alone, Mare aux Songes has experienced a renaissance, with scientists such as Claessens and Shapiro visiting the site and searching for fossils. The expeditions uncovered many bones of more than 400 different individuals, among a hodgepodge of other extinct wildlife from Mauritius. Cruelly, or maybe unfortunately? -- Subtropical swamp temperatures are not the kind of conditions that preserve DNA well.

And if you want to raise a species from the dead, you're going to need some really good DNA.

Decoding dodo DNA

An organism's complete set of DNA, its genetic blueprint, is known as its genome.

A genome is like a book that uses just four letters: A, C, G, and T. The way these letters are arranged and arranged gives us the extreme variety of life we ​​find on Earth, from the dodo to the mouse. the door and the hippopotamus. .the human.

Deciphering a genome ("DNA sequencing" as scientists say) used to be incredibly difficult and expensive. The human genome contains about 3 billion pairs of letters and was only completed, after a 13-year effort, in 2003. With the advancement of technology, researchers were able tosequence the genomes of more than 3,200 speciesfaster and cheaper than ever.

But assembling the genome of a long-dead species is a much more difficult task.

DNA can survive in fossils under the arctic tundra, and soft tissue samples can be preserved under the right conditions, but typically these samples are hundreds (or thousands) of years old, during which time the DNA they contain has degraded.

What this means is that in these cases some of the A's, C's, G's, and T's are missing. Depending on the sample, entire pages of this book on the genome may have been lost, or at least made difficult to find. reading. At other times, there may be fragments that survive but remain difficult to reconstruct. Shapiro's early work on the dodo used small snippets of DNA to determine where the dodo fit on the evolutionary tree, but fully recreating this animal would require much more genetic information, and finding good samples has been challenging.

“I have tested dozens, if not hundreds, of dodos that have been found in deposits in Mauritius and have not been able to recover their DNA, even using the most modern approaches,” says Shapiro.

Dodo Extinction: How scientists aim to revive an iconic species (3)
(Video) Scientists look to bring back dodo bird after hundreds of years

But one sample, taken from a specimen in the Natural History Museum in Copenhagen, provided Shapiro with the high-quality DNA he needed to decipher the dodo's genome. With this project in hand, resurrecting a kind of replacement for the dodo becomes plausible. However, there are still a number of steps before the first bird hatches.

In the mammoth and Tasmanian tiger projects, the idea is to edit the DNA of a cell and then transfer that DNA into an egg to create an embryo. This is not possible for the dodo.

"The main difference with birds, and why we're so far behind in trying to use any kind of gene editing or genetic engineering approaches, is that we just don't have access to the egg at that stage of development," Shapiro says. . . .

Unlike their mammalian projects, the team has to work with primordial germ cells (PGCs) when it comes to the dodo. These are cells that can be taken from a bird's egg, say a chicken egg, about a day after it's laid, and then grown in a dish. On the plate, scientists can edit the PGCs' DNA, changing their A, C, G, and T, until they become dodo-like. They can then re-implant the PGCs into the egg, which would eventually become a very normal chicken, with one fundamental change: its reproductive cells contain some of these dodo-like cells. After fertilization, these cells can develop into dodos.

At least, that's the theory, and it's this technological hurdle that Colossal will be investing in to overcome initially.

"There is a possibility that we could use chickens as carriers for these modified PGCs," says Shapiro. "But that's something we don't know."

colossal questions

De-extinction is a nascent scientific field filled with these kinds of unknowns. Ben Lamm, CEO of Colossal, is aware of the challenges his teams must overcome to complete any of his suppression projects, but strongly believes that Colossal has the technical expertise, engineering knowledge, and most importantly, the foundership. see these projects

He's also not surprised at how Colossalprevious termination announcementsthey have excited and stirred researchers, ethicists, and conservationists. He says the company has been open and transparent about its plans. But that hasn't stopped a barrage of questions from the public, the press and other scientists. "Any time you do something big and bold, you get all kinds of comments," he says.

No matter which colossal animal you choose to extinguish or how you choose to get there, similar concerns arise. Julian Koplin, a bioethicist at Monash University, has been pondering some of these questions.

He notes that there is general anxiety about whether such a project will work and how it will be implemented. As Koplin points out, we've never done anything like this before, which means it's hard to know the consequences. Even if Colossal meticulously plans every aspect of a dodo's reintroduction, there may be unintended consequences that he couldn't foresee.

“The other big concern that we need to take very seriously is what de-extinction will do to our way of thinking about the environment and the urgency of protecting existing species from extinction,” says Koplin. Essentially, de-extinction could reconfigure our relationship with extinction itself.

Dodo Extinction: How scientists aim to revive an iconic species (4)
(Video) Scientists Are Bringing The Dodo Bird Back

Jolyon Parish, an independent researcher and author of The Dodo and the Solitaire, a book exploring the history of the two extinct birds, shares this concern. She wonders what signals we'll send if we show that eliminating extinction works, suggesting it could slow the drive to save today's endangered species.

There are also questions about the feasibility of bringing back a group of dodos only to find themselves at a potential genetic bottleneck, in a new home, and unable to truly adapt to the environment they find themselves in. "The Mauritius of today is fundamentally different from the Mauritius of 1598," says Claessens, a vertebrate paleontologist at Maastricht University. Damning the dodo a second time is a "fool me twice, shame on me" situation.

“We know we drove them to extinction,” says Eugenia Gold, a paleontologist at Suffolk University who analyzed the dodo's braincase in 2016. “But how do we make sure that when we bring them back, we don't do that again? ? ?"

While Mauritius and some of the surrounding islands retain the characteristics of the environment present during the dodo's time, and the Mauritian government has promoted environmental rehabilitation programs, Shapiro notes that reintroduction of the dodo would require a site free of invasive species such as rats. and pigs. - the species that made it extinct in the first place. "If we're going to successfully reintroduce a functional dodo at some point, we're going to have to find a habitat where these introduced species are no longer present."

Colossal is already thinking about these issues. Lamm says that he has started discussions with landowners and indigenous groups in different parts of the world so that they can one day carry out reforestation projects safely and ethically.


In the distant future, a ship might stop at an isolated port in the Indian Ocean, perhaps on the island of Mauritius, perhaps somewhere nearby, with an almost miraculous cargo: a handful of dodo-like birds, ready to sail. through a jungle soil for the first time in more than 300 years.

To realize that future, Colossal would have to overcome all sorts of technical challenges. He would have to perfect avian gene editing and germ cell transfers. She would have to find a suitable species to lay a dodo egg on. He would have to master captive dodo care, managing their health and genetic diversity. Perhaps most important, it would have to prove itself worth doing by allaying any fears and anxiety about the dangers of extinction by early involvement with indigenous groups, conservationists, environmentalists, and other scientists.

But what if we instead just let the dead lie?

Earth is now experiencing its sixth mass extinction event. Biodiversity is in decline. We will lose thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands of species over the next century.

“We live in a time when habitats across the planet are changing and species around the world are struggling to adapt,” says Shapiro. “We are thinking about the possibility of having new technologies that can really change what is predicted for this mass extinction event that we are going through.”

She hopes the future will be one that is both biodiversemicrowded. Investing in eliminating extinction could be a start, but Colossal will need something else on its way to resurrect the dodo. It's something that has always been missing from the dodo's history, and yet something that could change its fate and the future of conservation.

A little good luck.

Dodo Extinction: How scientists aim to revive an iconic species (5)
(Video) How to Bring Back an Extinct Species: De-extinction is already happening

Should we bring extinct species back from the dead? you can contactthe author by emailand share your thoughts.


Can scientists revive dodo? ›

Scientists seem to have made some progress in attempting to resurrect a flightless bird dodo, which had gone extinct since the 17th century. If reports are to be believed, extinct species may be able to be brought back to life with the help of gene editing techniques.

Are scientists trying to bring back dodo birds? ›

To recreate some version of the dodo, the scientists plan to edit genes from the Nicobar pigeon, the dodo's closest living relative. They have already successfully sequenced the extinct bird's genome from ancient DNA.

How do scientists revive extinct species? ›

To bring back an extinct species, scientists would first need to sequence its genome, then edit the DNA of a close living relative to match it. Next comes the challenge of making embryos with the revised genome and bringing them to term in a living surrogate mother.

What are scientists trying to bring back extinct animals? ›

Reintroduction of an extinct species could also help improve ecosystems that had been destroyed by human development. It may also be argued that reviving species driven to extinction by humans is an ethical obligation.

Can the dodo bird be brought back from extinction? ›

A group of scientists think it could be possible! The dodo became extinct - meaning there are no more left of them in the world - in the 17th Century, around 100 years after it was first discovered.

How could the dodo have survived? ›

Through evolution, dodos adapted to life in Mauritius by increasing their size and nesting on the ground. Their beaks adapted to the food they were able to find easily, and they gradually became flightless.

What is are the real reason why dodo birds went extinct? ›

Over-harvesting of the birds, combined with habitat loss and a losing competition with the newly introduced animals, was too much for the dodos to survive. The last dodo was killed in 1681, and the species was lost forever to extinction.

Which bird evolved back into existence? ›

Which Extinct Bird Re-Evolved Itself from the Dead? The Aldabra rail re-evolved itself from the dead. The Aldabra rail re-evolved itself from the dead on the Aldabra Atoll in the Indian Ocean.

Who saw the last dodo bird? ›

Abstract. The extinction of the dodo (Raphus cucullatus L.; Fig. 1) is commonly dated to the last confirmed sighting in 1662, reported by Volkert Evertsz on an islet off Mauritius1,2.

Is it possible to revive an extinct species? ›

However, despite our many achievements in the realm of genetic engineering, one thing we're still working on is bringing extinct animals back to life. But scientists are working on it. In fact, there's a whole field of biology that's focused on reviving extinct species.

Can a species recover from extinction? ›

Yes, Since 1969, 99 percent of listed species have been prevented from going extinct through the efforts of the FWS Recovery program and our many partners. But the task of recovery can be very challenging for many species.

When did scientists start trying to bring back extinct animals? ›

The possibility of bringing extinct species back to life was first explored in the early 20th century, through an approach known as back breeding (or breeding back).

What animals were extinct but came back? ›

6 amazing animals that were declared extinct – and then came back
  • Coelacanth. A replica coelacanth in the Natural History Museum (Dominic Lipinski/PA) ...
  • Lord Howe stick insect. ...
  • Takahe. ...
  • Pygmy tarsier. ...
  • Omura's whale. ...
  • Caspian horse.
Aug 27, 2020

What animals are scientists trying to bring back 2022? ›

9, 2022. Extinction has a pretty clear definition: gone forever. Or does it? New advances using gene-editing tools like CRISPR or targeted breeding are rapidly leading researchers to think about bringing back certain species — the passenger pigeon, Tasmanian tiger and woolly mammoth, for example — from extinction.

Are scientists trying to bring back the T Rex? ›

No, scientists aren't proposing reviving dinosaurs — yet — but they are hoping to bring back other lumbering beasts from a bygone era using “de-extinction” technology. Evolutionary researcher David A. Duchene tells Inverse that we won't be visiting a real-life Jurassic Park anytime soon.

Should scientists bring back an extinct animal? ›

Other experts believe de-extinction could harm the environment, not help it. They say placing a new version of an extinct species into an ecosystem could hurt other animals. Many scientists also say bringing back a version of the mammoth is not likely to affect climate change.

Which best explains why dodos lost the ability to fly? ›

Explanation: Flight is adaptation against predation. Dodo when reached island it was without predators. After many generations the flight muscles became weak.

Who killed the last dodo? ›

The chicks and eggs of the ground-laying bird became easy fodder. Habitat destruction also played its part and by 1680, just eight decades after the island was claimed as Dutch territory, the last dodo had died. All that remained were a few moth-eaten specimens in European museums.

Why were dodos not afraid of humans? ›

The environment that the dodo inhabited on Mauritius did not have any significant predators until the humans and their animals arrived, so it is likely that the dodo had lived in relative safety until then. The dodo would not have seen the humans as a threat if they had previously existed without being hunted.

What was the most recent animal to go extinct? ›

Sadly, that makes the splendid poison frog one of the most recently extinct animals on the planet. The small red frog, a species of poison dart frog, lived in the neo-tropical forests of Panama in the mountain ranges adjacent to Costa Rica.

Why did dodo birds eat rocks? ›

The rocks they ate help them digest. They sit in the dodos stomach and help grind up their food. Its main habitat is believed to have been the woods in the drier coastal areas.

What is the most ancient bird alive today? ›

Wisdom (Z333) is a wild female Laysan albatross. She is the oldest confirmed wild bird in the world as well as the oldest banded bird in the world.

What bird did T. rex become? ›

It is an unlikely relationship, but the humble pigeon is a descendant of the group of dinosaurs that also includes the mighty T. rex. The two species share a remarkable biological past.

Did humans evolve from birds? ›

Thus, at least 600 million years of evolution separate humans from Aves, a considerable stretch of time even in evolutionary terms. Given this length of time, is not surprising that birds and humans might share traits both in virtue of common descent, as well as a result of independent, convergent evolution.

Were elephant birds real? ›

Elephant birds are members of the extinct ratite family Aepyornithidae, made up of flightless birds that once lived on the island of Madagascar. They are thought to have become extinct around 1000-1200 CE, probably as a result of human activity.

When was the last dinosaur alive? ›

Dinosaurs went extinct about 65 million years ago (at the end of the Cretaceous Period), after living on Earth for about 165 million years.

Were dodo birds friendly? ›

Dodos were recorded as being naturally curious, friendly birds.

What are the 3 phases of recovery for an endangered species? ›

The process of conserving endangered species can be divided into three phases: (i) identifica- tion-determining which species are in danger of extinction; (ii) protection-determining and implementing the short-term measures neces- sary to halt a species' slide to extinction; and (iii) recovery-determining and ...

Has any animal survived all 5 mass extinctions? ›

Sharks are the consummate survivors. They've been around for more than 400 million years, surviving all five of the major mass extinctions in Earth's history.

What animal has been saved from extinction? ›

Arabian oryx

The oryx was the world's first example of the successful reintroduction of an animal declared extinct in the wild into its original habitat. In 1982, a heavily guarded herd of 10 oryx was released into the open desert in central Oman to be intensively studied while living independently.

What was the first extinct animal to be cloned back to life? ›

Pyrenean ibex

This was the first, and so far only, extinct animal to be cloned.

What animals only exist in zoos? ›

5 animals that wouldn't exist without zoos
  • Chicken frog. The population has decreased with over 90% the last 10 years which makes it critically endangered. ...
  • Scimitar-horned oryx. Scimitar-horned oryx are extinct in the wild. ...
  • European bison. ...
  • Lesser White-fronted Goose. ...
  • Przewalskis wild horse.

How many animals have humans made extinct? ›

Since the 16th century, humans have driven at least 680 vertebrate species to extinction, including the Pinta Island tortoise. The last known animal of this subspecies, a giant tortoise nicknamed Lonesome George, died at the Galapagos National Park in Ecuador in 2012.

Would cows go extinct without humans? ›

Cattle and chickens (and even our dogs and cats) would probably not last very long without human intervention. A natural order of predators and prey would spread. Over time, nature would reclaim the landscape.

Are dodos being cloned? ›

Scientists have successfully sequenced the entire genome of the dodo bird, which was officially rendered as extinct in the 17th century, meaning that it could successfully be cloned in the future.

Are scientists trying to revive extinct animals? ›

From an Australian frog that swallowed its own eggs to woolly mammoths, scientists are getting ever closer to being able to bring long-lost species back from the dead. Millions of years ago thylacines, also known as Tasmanian tigers, were widespread across Australia.

What animal will be gone in 2050? ›

87 Animals That Will Be Extinct by 2050
Animals That Will Be Extinct by 2050
1.Amur Leopard
2.Sumatran Elephant
3.Arabian Leopard
4.Sunda Tiger
83 more rows
Oct 28, 2022

Why are scientists trying to bring back dodos? ›

The Dodo bird could be making a comeback hundreds of years after its extinction thanks to a DNA breakthrough. Scientists have been able to sequence the bird's entire genome for the first time after years of analysing preserved DNA from the bird.

Is it possible to revive dinosaurs? ›

Unfortunately, dinosaurs probably cannot be cloned and brought back to life. Their DNA is too old since dinosaurs have been extinct for over 65 million years. Any genetic information is not likely to survive for one million years, so the dinosaurs are simply too old to be cloned.


1. WION Climate Tracker: Dead as dodo, well not quite! | World News | English News | International News
2. Should We Bring Back Extinct Species?
(After Skool)
3. 10 DEAD Animals Scientists Are Close To Reviving
(Facts Junkie)
4. Extinction of Species | Evolution | Biology | FuseSchool
(FuseSchool - Global Education)
5. How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction - with Beth Shapiro
(The Royal Institution)
6. The De-Extinction of the Aurochs
(NORTH 02)
Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Madonna Wisozk

Last Updated: 02/25/2023

Views: 5971

Rating: 4.8 / 5 (68 voted)

Reviews: 83% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Madonna Wisozk

Birthday: 2001-02-23

Address: 656 Gerhold Summit, Sidneyberg, FL 78179-2512

Phone: +6742282696652

Job: Customer Banking Liaison

Hobby: Flower arranging, Yo-yoing, Tai chi, Rowing, Macrame, Urban exploration, Knife making

Introduction: My name is Madonna Wisozk, I am a attractive, healthy, thoughtful, faithful, open, vivacious, zany person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.