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Biotech Earth Science

The Passenger Pigeon: A Century of Extinction 108

Posted by samzenpus
from the coming-soon dept.
An anonymous reader writes On September 1, 1914, Martha, the last passenger pigeon was found dead in her aviary at the Cincinnati Zoo. When the first European settlers arrived in North America at least one of every four birds on the continent was a passenger pigeon, making them the most numerous birds in North America, and perhaps in the world. From the article: "But extinction apparently doesn't ring with the finality it used to. Researchers are working to 'de-extinct' the bird. They got their hands on some of the 1,500 or so known passenger pigeon specimens and are hoping to resurrect the species through some Jurassic Park-like genetic engineering. Instead of using frog DNA to fill out the missing parts of a dinosaur's genetic code as in Michael Crichton's story, the real-life 'bring-back-the-passenger pigeon' researchers are using the bird's closest relative, the band-tailed pigeon.
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The Passenger Pigeon: A Century of Extinction

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  • by PhilHibbs (4537) <snarks@gmail.com> on Monday September 01, 2014 @08:39AM (#47799539) Homepage Journal

    It's worse than that, it's exactly 100 years old today.

  • Ecosystem (Score:3, Insightful)

    by wjcofkc (964165) on Monday September 01, 2014 @08:53AM (#47799605)
    If the Passenger Pigeon has been extinct for this long, it's safe to say that ecosystems have adjusted to their demise. Let's not see what the consequences of re-introducing them are. There is no way to predict the effect. If they are planning and engineering these hybrids just to study their work in captivity, well, that is just as wrong.
  • Re:Ecosystem (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 01, 2014 @09:05AM (#47799651)
    The consequences would be that the ecosystem would revert to a more natural state. We don't need to have sabre tooth cats running around killing these things to keep their population in check - domestic housecats would do the job very nicely. The simple fact is, these birds were here in enormous numbers, basically a big part of the definition of the North American ecosystem, and we screwed it up. If we can fix it, we should. Think of the additional tax revenue that could be gained from selling hunting licenses, the publicity for the environmental department, and if all they do is suck up some of the habitat that the pigeons have right now it's a great move and a good first step to bringing back more of God's creatures that man has dispatched during his infestation of the planet.
  • Re:Ecosystem (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Tx (96709) on Monday September 01, 2014 @09:05AM (#47799653) Journal

    "If the Passenger Pigeon has been extinct for this long, it's safe to say that ecosystems have adjusted to their demise."
    If the ecosystems can adjust to their demise, then surely they could equally well adjust to their return?

    "Let's not see what the consequences of re-introducing them are."
    Why not? I'm curious.

    "There is no way to predict the effect."
    There 's no way to predict the effect of any given action or inaction. For all you know, reintroducing passenger pigeons could be the best thing ever to happen to the North American environment.

    "If they are planning and engineering these hybrids just to study their work in captivity, well, that is just as wrong."
    Why is it just as wrong? Something isn't true just because you say it is; try to provide some rationale behind the statement. You've stated concerns about re-introducing the critters to the wild, so surely studying them in captivity is the perfect solution.

  • Re:Ecosystem (Score:4, Insightful)

    by FalcDot (1224920) on Monday September 01, 2014 @09:41AM (#47799741)

    Have you ever read what happened in Yellowstone when the wolves were reintroduced?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/H... [wikipedia.org]

    Now, okay, the wolf is an apex predator who has a much bigger effect on the ecosystem than a pigeon. But I believe this is one of the best examples you can give that putting species back where they've gone extinct can have some very beneficial effects.

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