Not so dead as a dodo: An audacious collaboration between geneticists and conservationists plans to bring back the extinct dodo and reintroduce it to its once-native habitat in Mauritius.
Biotechnology and genetic engineering firm Colossal Biosciences, which is working towards an idea of “de-extinction” of multiple species such as the woolly mammoth. Colossal Biosciences has formed a partnership in conjunction with Mauritian Wildlife Foundation to find the most suitable habitat for large, flightless birds.
The dodo is extinct since 1681 A combination of predation by humans as well as the introduction of animals by humans caused its decline, transforming it into a textbook argument for the extinction of species. However, according to the researchers their returning to Mauritius could be beneficial to the immediate habitat of the dodo as well as other species.
Colossal first made it was planning to revive the dodo in the month of January 2023. The exact date when they will have the ability achieve this remains unclear however new information about the method of reviving the dodo have been released.
The complete Dodo’s genome was identified by Beth Shapiro, lead paleogeneticist at Colossal. The company claims to have completed the sequencing of solitaire, a species that is extinct of the dodo on Rodrigues Island, close to Mauritius and the Nicobar pigeon, which is the closest living relative of the dodo, that is found on islands located in Southeast Asia spanning the Indian Pacific and Indian Oceans.
The Nicobar Pigeon, found in the coast areas that are part of to the Andaman as well as the Nicobar Islands is the most closely living cousin to the dodo.Arterra/Universal Images Group/Getty Images
Geneticists from Colossal have discovered cells that function as a precursor to eggs or ovaries in the Nicobar Pigeon that can be grown successfully in an embryo of a chicken. They are now studying to determine whether the cell types ( called primordial germ cells, also known as PGCs) are able to transform into eggs and sperm.
This is an essential stage in the creation of hybrid animals by reproduction. Scientists have used PGCs to make the chicken that was fathered by the duck in which the embryo of a duck was injected with chicken PGCs creating an adult duck that was infused with the sperm from the bird called a rooster. It was then bred to an hen, giving the birth of chicks.
Colossal plans to take similar paths. It will first analyze the dodo and solitaire genomes to Nicobar pigeon’s genome to see the ways they differ. Then, it will modify the PGCs of Nicobar’s Nicobar to express the physical characteristics of the dodo.
The edited PGCs will be then introduced into the embryos of sterile poultry and the rooster. After the introduction of edited PGCs both the rooster and chicken are able to reproduce as well, and theoretically their offspring could resemble the dodo because of the pigeon DNA that is hybridized in the reproductive system of their respective species.
“Physically, the restored dodo will be indiscernible from what we know of the dodo’s appearance,” said Matt James, Colossal’s chief animal officer via email.
James has described the project as “an amazing engine of innovation for avian genetics, genomics, and cell biology,” partly due to the fact that “most of the technologies that we use for cloning in mammals does not exist in birds today.” However the scientist did not provide an exact date on the date that the first embryo will be developed.
A new home is being built for the dodo : Not so dead as a dodo
Black River Gorges National Park, Mauritius.Holger Hollemann/dpa/picture alliance/AP
As Colossal’s lab continues its work and research, a team of the Mauritian Wildlife Foundation (MWF) will be busy creating a nest of feathers.
Vikash Tatayah director of conservation at the foundation, explained that the MWF reached out to Colossal earlier in the year to discuss collaboration, and is currently conducting a feasibility study to determine the best place to locate Colossal’s birds once they’re born.
“Mauritius is not a big island, it’s 60 kilometers by 30 kilometers,” Tatayah declared. “Much of it has already been replaced by sugar cane, buildings, villages (and) reservoirs.”
It is said that the “most ideal site does not exist,” said the official that each site is a compromise of pros and cons with poaching, predators and human disturbances all aspects.
Black River Gorges National Park with its forests that have been rehabilitated is one of the locations to be considered. Nearby natural reserve Round Island and the islet of Aigrettes are the other two.
The islet and island aren’t home to natural predators, as he explained while there is a mainland where invading species like rats, wild cats, pigs, and mongooses, dogs, monkeys and crows could require to be “excluded, rehomed or even controlled” to allow Colossal’s dodo to prosper. However, Tatayah explained that Colossal’s foundation would like to have to have a place in which the dodos can be accessible to the public. Round Island and Ile aux Aigrettes are currently not inhabited.
There is a chance that the dodo could be brought back in multiple places, he said. Not so dead as a dodo
The island protected by Ile Aux Aigrette in the Indian Ocean, close to Mauritius could be a potential place for Dodos of the Colossal.Ben Birchall/PA/AP
When human factors and foreign predators are managed, Tatayah is less concerned about how the dodo can become a part of its new environment. “(It) was coexisting and coevolved with other birds, other plants and reptiles … so I can’t see them being competitive at all,” Tatayah said.
In fact, there may even be some tangential benefits said the expert in noting “mutualistic relationships which have broken down since the loss of the dodo.”
The large beak of the bird indicates that it ate large-seeded fruits as he explained and that the dodo played part in the seeds dispersal. A few of these species are in danger or extremely threatened according to him, with one possibility being that seeds are not being dispersed enough and are not primed to germinate without the dodo, or any other large species that are extinct (another is that of the Domed Mauritian gigantic tortoise. ).
“I think (the dodo is) going to be a big bonus for the restoration of ecosystems,” Tatayah said. Tatayah.
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While acknowledging that the dodo might help in dispersing seeds Julian Hume, an expert in the field of avian paleontology in the London’s Natural History Museum, who has conducted research on the bird suggests caution.
“Despite being one of the most famous birds in the world, we still know virtually nothing about the dodo, so how it interacted with its environment is impossible to know,” Hume stated through an email.
“Colossal’s idea is a sound one,” he said however, “because of the complexity of re-creating a species using DNA even if feasible, (it) can only produce a dodo-like creature. It would then require several years to selectively improve the smallest pigeon to an enormous flightless bird. Remember, it took nature thousands of years for this to occur in the case of dodo.”
When it comes to studying the bird after it was reintroduced “at best, Colossal can only produce a bird with some dodo-like qualities, and a bird that has no inherent idea of how to live in the wild, so it would be rather naive to base any conclusions about behavior or other life-history characters (on it),” Hume declared.
Why is it that the dodo has been revived in the first place?
Illustration of a dodo made by Colossal Biosciences.courtesy Colossal Biosciences
The lingering concern remains “why?” Why pool resources to recreate a dead, flying bird and securing the bird on an isolated island the Indian Ocean?
Ben Lamm, CEO and co-founder of Colossal, said Colossal’s argument that “restoring the dodo gives us the opportunity to create ‘conservation optimism,’ that hopefully inspires people around the globe, specifically the youth, in a time when climate change, biodiversity loss and politics can make things seem hopeless.”
He also said that the methods that were developed by the dodo projectdodo project can help to restore other species of avian.
Tatayah believes that the project’s high profile could spur more conservation initiatives on Mauritius. “In our experience, when you start saving a species, it gives the drive for protection and restoration of habitats and ecosystem,” Tatayah said.
“We’re interested in the entire ecological conservation. We don’t want to see the dodo on its own in the field,” Tatayah added.
Director of the Mauritian Wildlife Foundation said that regardless the return of the dodo will “not going to happen overnight … we’re talking about probably a decade.” The birds will be developed within the US and will require importation according to the report. In a reference to the political and legal aspects of the plan, he added that “the years may add up.”
Tatayah said that the nascent “de-extinction” technologies should not be used to replace the tried and tested methods of conservation specifically for endangered species and describing this in terms of “another tool in the toolbox … but not the tool that replaces the whole toolbox.”
Hume said he was in agreement, and added that the massive investment Colossal has made could be utilized elsewhere to save a variety of kinds of species “on the brink” through traditional conservation.
The paleontologist isn’t against the movement to end extinction but prefers to have it applied to species that have been extinct for a while, such for example the Thylacine (Tasmanian Tiger) or species with insufficient populations, like those of Northern White Rhino, which is home to only two females. (Colossal Biosciences is currently conducting research on both.)
“The dodo, despite being a regrettable case of human-caused extinction, has really had its day,” Hume stated. However, our constant curiosity is more difficult to quell.
“I have studied the dodo for many years, and there is still a lot to learn about this enigmatic bird,” he said. “If one was ever recreated, I would certainly be the first in the queue to see it.”