The genetics start-up Colossal Biosciences wants to use new genetic engineering methods to resurrect the extinct dodo. The project is funded with $150 million but has yet to explore fundamental questions about bird cloning.
Cambridge (USA). Dutch sailors discovered the chubby and flightless dodo on the island of Mauritius in the 16th century. Under a hundred years later the animal was extinct . The dodo is therefore one of the best-known species that have been wiped out by humans . Now the genetics start-up Colossal Biosciences wants to revive the dodo. As company founder Ben Lamm explains, his company was able to raise $150 million in funding for the project. Colossal Biosciences previously announced plans to use genetic engineering to resurrect the woolly mammoth and the Tasmanian tiger .
The basis for the planned revival of the dodo is a scientific breakthrough made by paleontologists from the University of California at Santa Cruz in April 2022. Beth Shapiro’s team succeeded in sequencing the complete genome of the extinct bird and closing previously existing gaps in the known genome.
Cloning not possible
Alongside Ben Lamm and Harvard University genetics pioneer George Church, Beth Shapiro is also involved in the revival project. In theory, Colossal Biosciences could resurrect the dodo, woolly mammoth, and thylacine relatively easily through cloning. In practice, however, this does not work because the remaining DNA remains are not sufficient.
Introducing genes into living species
Because cloning the dodo is not possible, Colossal Bioscience wants to revive the bird using a different approach. The scientists plan to insert genes from the extinct species into a living, closely related species and manipulate its DNA. In this way, the genetic material required for cloning could be generated via a detour. In the case of the woolly mammoth, the Asian elephant is to be used for this purpose, the genome of which is 99.6 percent identical to that of the extinct animal species.
The dodo, which belongs to the pigeon family, also has close living relatives into which the genes can possibly be introduced. According to the researchers, it is also an advantage with the dodo that the carrying of the embryo, which is necessary in woolly mammoths and Tasmanian tigers, is no longer necessary.
Reproductive process of birds is problematic
The problem, however, is that the reproductive process in birds differs significantly from that in mammals. Research has therefore not yet succeeded in cloning a bird. Before the dodo, which can be up to one meter high and weigh 15 kilograms, can be revived, Colossal Biosciences must first research how birds can be cloned.