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Science

Berkeley Scientists Plan To 'Jurassic Park' Some Extinct Pigeons Back To Life 209

Posted by Soulskill
from the hold-on-to-your-butts dept.
phenopticon writes "Researchers at Berkeley are attempting to revive the extinct passenger pigeon in order to set up a remote island theme park full of resurrected semi-modern extinct animals. (Well, maybe not that last part.) Quoting: 'About 1,500 passenger pigeons inhabit museum collections. They are all that's left of a species once perceived as a limitless resource. The birds were shipped in boxcars by the tons, sold as meat for 31 cents per dozen, and plucked for mattress feathers. But in a mere 25 years, the population shrank from billions to thousands as commercial hunters decimated nesting flocks. Martha, the last living bird, took her place under museum glass in 1914. ... Ben Novak doesn't believe the story should end there. The 26-year-old genetics student is convinced that new technology can bring the passenger pigeon back to life. "This whole idea that extinction is forever is just nonsense," he says. Novak spent the last five years working to decipher the bird's genes, and now he has put his graduate studies on hold to pursue a goal he'd once described in a junior high school fair presentation: de-extinction. ... Using next-generation sequencing, scientists identified the passenger pigeon's closest living relative: Patagioenas fasciata, the ubiquitous band-tailed pigeon of the American west. This was an important step. The short, mangled DNA fragments from the museums' passenger pigeons don't overlap enough for a computer to reassemble them, but the modern band-tailed pigeon genome could serve as a scaffold. Mapping passenger pigeon fragments onto the band-tailed sequence would suggest their original order."
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Berkeley Scientists Plan To 'Jurassic Park' Some Extinct Pigeons Back To Life

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  • Re:and then (Score:5, Informative)

    by schneidafunk (795759) on Friday March 15, 2013 @01:14PM (#43183973)
    Actually on the list of candidates [longnow.org] they list the Smilodon (saber-toothed cat).
  • by Somebody Is Using My (985418) on Friday March 15, 2013 @01:47PM (#43184357) Homepage

    I don't see the problem. Problems like these have already been considered by the experts [wikipedia.org]

    When the pigeons become a pest, we just release some Bolivian tree lizards. If those become a nuisance, we simply release wave after wave of Chinese needle snakes. They'll wipe out the lizards. If you have a problem with snakes, well, we've lined up a fabulous type of gorilla that thrives on snake meat. And the beautiful part of /that/ plan is, when wintertime rolls around the gorillas simply freeze to death [snpp.com]!

    See? Nature will find a way! So clone, my little mad scientists, clone like you have never cloned before!

  • by scotts13 (1371443) on Friday March 15, 2013 @01:47PM (#43184367)

    How do you resurrect a species learnt abilities and knowledge ? Okay birds look like pre-programmed robots, but saying things like "extinction is forever is just nonsense" is wrong. Numerous species pass their hunting, social, swimming or hiding knowledge from parents to children. In fact, even birds learn singing from listening to those of their kind.
    Actually, i think when you resurrect a species, you just engineer a new one using pieces of stuff drawn from existing material ; lost knowledge is lost forever.

    This has proven to be a problem, even (perhaps especially) with birds. Great efforts have been made to captive-breed Thick-Billed parrots, and reintroduce them to their former, southern USA habitat. The released birds typically starve. They have a very specific diet, and they don't have other birds in the wild to show them how to find it.

  • by Algae_94 (2017070) on Friday March 15, 2013 @01:56PM (#43184493) Journal
    I hear what your saying about the dangers of bringing back extinct species, but the last passenger pigeon died in 1914. It's not exactly like their predators have all evolved into something else. We already have other pigeons, sure this is a different species, but I think we have a good idea about their behavior and biology from similar species and historic accounts.
  • by schneidafunk (795759) on Friday March 15, 2013 @02:06PM (#43184605)
    To be fair, you are quoting the summary and that is not said on the project's main website. However, they do say:

    " Its DNA has already been sequenced... The genomes of the two birds will be compared in close detail, to determine which differences are most crucial. Then the data and analysis goes to George Church’s lab at Harvard’s Wyss Institute to begin the process of converting the viable band-tailed DNA into viable passenger pigeon DNA... There are some 1,500 preserved specimens with extractable DNA."

    http://longnow.org/revive/projects/ [longnow.org]
  • by hawguy (1600213) on Friday March 15, 2013 @04:31PM (#43185965)

    RTFA there were over 1 billion of them in 1890 and then went extinct by 1914. You really think their natural predators have now all evolved to ignore them?

    Some of their natural predators are now endangered [endangeredwolfcenter.org] themselves [edu.pe.ca]. Some of them are also known to be a nuisance [latimes.com] to humans. Do you really want to give them an unlimited food source? Maybe the birds won't be a problem, but the rise of predators will be.

    And are you sure that the predators can reproduce fast enough to keep up with the growth of pigeons?

    And what happens to the ecosystems that are taken over by the expanding population of new predators (and the predators of the predators?)? And what happens to the new predator population if the pigeons are eradicated again?

    This country is much different than it was 100 years ago, so maybe the birds will no longer thrive and it's a non-issue. Or maybe the easy access to crops and current lack of predators will let them grow to even greater numbers than before.

    "I don't know why she swallowed the fly"

  • by hawguy (1600213) on Friday March 15, 2013 @04:43PM (#43186085)

    I've seen this one on SyFy. The scientists accidentally mix in their DNA with the pigeon DNA and we get a ruthless bird-beast that kills with bird-flu contaminated venom. Starring that guy in that show you used to watch 15 years ago and a hot 22 year old wannabe actress the producer is fucking.

    I thought you were making that up but I looked it up and the movie is Flu Bird Horror [wikipedia.org], and I think the guy you're referring to is Lance Guest (aka Alex Rogan from The Last Starfighter [wikipedia.org])

  • by ChrisMaple (607946) on Friday March 15, 2013 @08:08PM (#43187571)
    Recreate the Carolina parakeet. The last one was killed by a damn fool ornithologist.

The study of non-linear physics is like the study of non-elephant biology.

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