Have you ever wanted to see a real living and breathing Carolina Parakeet in person? How about a Passenger Pigeon or the infamous Dodo?
Even though these species of birds have long been extinct, recent scientific breakthroughs are making it more likely that we will be able to bring extinct species back to life.
In fact, in 2003, an extinct goat (Pyrenean ibex) was brought back to life, but it lived for just a few minutes. And two weeks ago, scientists announced that they’ve created embryos of an extinct frog species, though none have successfully developed into the frog.
Those who study the possibilities of bringing species back (often called “de-extinction”) claim it’s only a matter of time before we’re able to bring many species back. There’s actually a shortlist of species that may become “de-extinct,” including the Wooly Mammoth, Saber-toothed Tiger, Moa (bird), Wooly Rhinoceros, Ivory-billed Woodpecker and more.
But if you’ve ever seen Jurassic Park, you know this can raise a lot of ethical and practical questions about whether we should bring animals back that no longer exist.
To revive a creature that no longer inhabits the earth could have huge consequences. While we all lament the fact that Passenger Pigeons, once robust and widespread in the United States, are completely gone, they were actually quite menacing.
In 1866, there was a reported flock a mile wide and 300 miles long that contained more than 3 billion birds and took half a day to pass over. You can imagine all the droppings the flock left.
Just like how the introduction of House Sparrows in the United States has created an invasive species, we cannot know the ramifications if one of these extinct species was accidentally, or intentionally, released back into the wild.
There’s also an ethical question. While the extinction of the Dodo and Carolina Parakeet was accelerated by destructive human behavior, other species, like the Wooly Mammoth or the Irish Elk, died off from natural reasons. A distinction between simply reviving for scientific purposes and restoring the species into the wild needs to be made.
This is a really interesting debate that will be discussed in the coming years. What do you think? Should we revive some extinct species?