Thirty years ago, Jurassic Park hit theaters in a big way, leaving audience members gobsmacked by some of the most lifelike dinosaur images ever to hit the silver screen. Equally compelling were concepts like science run amuck and profound questions about ethics. And who can forget about Ian Malcom‘s foreshadowing line, “Life finds a way”?
Of course, life didn’t find a way without a colossal boost from science, making the film a cautionary tale about science unbound (like Prometheus and Frankenstein’s monster). Despite all the examples of what too much dabbling can do, however, a science company named Colossal Biosciences has ambitious plans to resurrect the long-extinct dodo bird and maybe even the woolly mammoth.
Here’s everything you need to know about the science of resurrecting extinct animals and why some scientists say it’s time to stop playing God.
Resurrecting the Extinct
Humans have long entertained some wild ideas, and the best individuals (like Michael Crichton) have written about them, raking in millions. Among the strangest fantasies in recent years has been the resurrection of various species long extinct. While most individuals naturally veer away from big boys like dinosaurs, there has been increasing interest in cloning things like dodo birds, woolly mammoths, and even the Tasmanian tiger.
Is bringing back an animal that hasn’t been seen on planet Earth for hundreds or thousands of years advisable? It’s hard to say. But the allure remains. Moreover, Colossal Biosciences CEO Ben Lamm argues that it’s only fitting to give dodo birds a second chance since they vanished at the hands of humans in the first place. According to history, the last of these large flightless birds died in 1681 on the Island of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean.
The Company With the Master Plan
So, how does Colossal Biosciences fit into the mix? This genetic engineering and biotechnology start-up is compiling blueprints to bring ancient animals back to life. In fact, they claim they’ve already completed a full sequencing of the dodo’s genome based on dodo remains uncovered in Northern Europe.
George Church of Harvard Medical School and Ben Lamm, a tech entrepreneur, founded the company to pursue these outlandish projects and more. But not everyone agrees this is a good investment of time, especially amidst a modern-day extinction crisis. Julian Hume of London’s Natural History Museum argues, “There’s so many things that desperately need our help and money. Why would you even bother trying to save something long gone when there’re so many things that are desperate right now?”
That may be some serious food for thought. But it hasn’t stopped investors from dropping hundreds of millions of dollars into the project… kind of like Jurassic Park.
By Engrid Barnett, contributor for Ripleys.com
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