Resurrecting the Dodo: Scientists Extract DNA Sample, Raising Hopes of Bringing the Extinct Bird Back to Life

The flightless bird was wiped out by 17th century sailors and the dogs they brought with them when Europeans discovered its native Mauritius

A dodo skeleton

The dodo could be brought back to life after the extinct bird had its entire genome sequenced for the first time.

The breakthrough means scientists could in theory edit DNA from another bird such as a pigeon to include dodo DNA and recreate the species.

The flightless bird was wiped out by 17th century sailors and the dogs they brought with them when Europeans discovered its native Mauritius.

Its full genetic code has been discovered from “a fantastic specimen” of Dodo remains found stored in Denmark.

Prof Beth Shapiro, of the University of California, Santa Cruz, revealed her team had identified the full genetic code of the bird in a Royal Society of Medicine webinar.

A dodo skeleton which was auctioned in 2016

A rare near-complete dodo skeleton

Prof Shapiro said: “Yes, the dodo genome is entirely sequenced because we sequenced it.

“It’s not been published yet, but it does exist and we’re working on it right now. I tried for a long time to get DNA from a specimen that’s in Oxford.

“We got a tiny little bit of DNA… but that particular sample didn’t have sufficiently well-preserved DNA.”

The extinct flightless bird lived on Mauritius in the Indian Ocean

However Prof Shapiro explained recreating a bird would be more difficult than the 2003 cloning of mammal Dolly the Sheep in Scotland.

“Mammals are simpler,” she said.

The Telegraph reported the news of the scientific breakthrough which has given hope for the species.

An early illustration of a dodo

“If I have a cell and it’s living in a dish in the lab and I edit it so that it has a bit of dodo DNA how do I then transform that cell into a whole living breathing actual animal?

“The way we can do this is to clone it, the same approach that was used to create ‘Dolly the Sheep’, but we don’t know how to do that with birds because of the intricacies of their reproductive pathways.

Woolly Mammoths could also be revived

“So there needs to be another approach for birds and this is one really fundamental technological hurdle in de-extinction.

“There are groups working on different approaches for doing that and I have little doubt that we are going to get there but it is an additional hurdle for birds that we don’t have for mammals.”

Prof Mike Benton, a palaeontologist at Bristol University, said: “The dodo is a popular bird and it’s one you can make a case for bringing back.

A virtual model of a Columbian mammoth

“If you bring T-Rex back to life, maybe that wouldn’t be the popular thing as it would run riot and cause havoc.

“But bringing back something that wasn’t so ancient would be much more feasible. The dodo has a known habitat that is readily available.”


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