Friday Poll: Bring Back the Passenger Pigeon?


Martha, the last passenger pigeon, 1914

Scientists just might be able to bring back the now-extinct Passenger Pigeon. As though a story about Jurassic Park (but with harmless bids instead of carnivorous dinosaurs), Sarah Pruitt writes about the possibility of reviving that now-extinct species:

The last known passenger pigeon, named for Martha Washington, died in captivity in the Cincinnati Zoo in 1914….

Now, nearly a century after Martha’s death, scientists believe they can bring her species back to life, using techniques worthy of the 1990s science-fiction/action blockbuster “Jurassic Park.” With funding from Revive and Restore, a group dedicated to the de-extinction of recently lost species, the young biologist Ben J. Novak is spearheading efforts to use DNA taken from passenger pigeon specimens in museums and fill it in with fragments from a living species, the band-tailed pigeon. The reconstituted genome would then be inserted into a band-tailed pigeon stem cell, creating a germ cell (an egg-and-sperm precursor). When the germ cell is injected into young band-tailed pigeons and these pigeons reproduce, their offspring would come as close as possible to expressing the passenger pigeon genes. The “de-extinction” process is different from cloning, in that it uses a variety of DNA from different passenger pigeons, meaning that the offspring produced would be as unique as any bird from an original passenger pigeon flock.

Let’s assume it could be done, and assume also that it could be done with private funds alone (no tax dollars needed): would you support the project?

I’ll say yes, even if we’ll surely never be able to repopulate the species to its former numbers in North America.

What do you think?

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