Science fiction often has a way of accurately predicting the possibilities of the future. When Michael Crichton wrote Jurassic Park in 1990 he obviously did a lot of research into genetic engineering, but little could he have known that his novel was going to have a direct link to the resurrection of the Dodo thirty years later.
The Dodo has been extinct since around 1662 due to habitat loss and hunting, but a biotech startup called Colossal Sciences, is planning to resurrect the flightless bird in a similar way the dinosaurs were in Jurassic Park. Colossal Sciences is a “de-extinction” company who have previously floated plans to revive other long lost animals including the Wooly mammoth and Tasmanian tiger. And they’re not alone in their vision – since 2021 they have acquired $225 million in investment to make their proposals a reality.
Interestingly one of Colossal’s biggest backers is Thomas Tull (through States Innovative Technology Fund) who is also the producer of the Jurassic World films. Like the films foretold, reintroducing an extinct animal into a new ecosystem can have disastrous consequences, many of which might not be predictable.
If we’ve learned anything from Jurassic Park, we know that the first thing you need in order to recreate an animal is its DNA. Colossal Sciences lead paleogeneticist Beth Shapiro claims they are now in the possession of a complete Dodo genome after taking extracts from preserved remains in Denmark. But this isn’t to create a theme park, there’s a serious reason for trying to bring the Dodo back – to find a way to combat the current extinction crisis affecting the planet.
“We’re clearly in the middle of an extinction crisis,” Shapiro said. “And it’s our responsibility to bring stories and to bring excitement to people in a way that motivates them to think about the extinction crisis that’s going on right now.”
But can a true Dodo be recreated, or would it just a hybrid who’s DNA has been altered slightly?
The theory that resurrecting extinct animals from their DNA in the future could be a viable science is also confirmed by Chester Zoo, UK, whose animal researchers have teamed up with Nature’s SAFE to cryogenically freeze genetic material from animals at the zoo that have died, preserving their DNA for the future in the event of extinction.
Sadly, some scientists think that these efforts might be too late as human population and activity means we’re already in the process of a mass-extinction event, with some unique animal DNA lost forever.