Scientists Want To Bring A Bird Back From Extinction

This might complicate our “which came first” question

An organization dedicated to the “genetic rescue for endangered and extinct species” thinks it can bring the great auk back from the dead.

Similar in size and appearance to a medium-sized penguin, the great auk went extinct in the mid-19th century due to hundreds of years of game hunting on the British coasts, which only made the marine bird more rare and “valuable.”

Revive & Restore is convinced it can extract DNA from the great auk's fossils and preserved organs, possibly allowing them to sequence its genome. The organization would then genetically modify and fertilize an embryo of the great auk's nearest relative, the razorbill. Scientists would then implant it into a large bird that could potentially hatch a great auk, according to The Telegraph.

Razorbill bird
A razorbill, the closest living relative to the great auk.Wikimedia Commons user Markos90

This new biological discipline, called “de-extinction,” is being given credence as a revival technique thanks to discussions like the one surrounding this flightless seabird and organizations like Revive & Restore.

The organization has a list of candidate species, both extinct and endangered, that they could "de-extinct" or genetically assist in the wild and a checklist to show what they would do for each of these species.

The organization must be cautious, though. Introducing a new species, even though it may have existed there before, could potentially be dangerous to the rest of the ecosystem. Revive & Restore’s mission is to “enhance biodiversity” by essentially cloning and redistributing these species back into the wild, but they must do so carefully.

The organization could run the revived species back into extinction, or it could replace and destroy another population of animals that has taken over for the original species in the ecosystem. It would be incredibly difficult to predict how a wooly mammoth — one of Revive & Restore’s loftiest candidates for “de-extinction” — fits into today’s world, and the same goes for all other species on their lists.