Genetics: $150 million to bring the dodo back to life

Children may remember it as a supporting character in the first blockbuster animated film of the successful “Ice Age” series. The dodo, a flightless bird that became extinct in the 17th century, has now come back to life through a genetic engineering process which easily recalls the subject of another series of blockbuster films, Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park.

Colossal Biosciences, an American company that had already announced previous plans to bring mammoths and the Tasmanian tiger back to life, have reported to be in the process of recreating the dodo in one of their laboratories from a sample of mitochondrial DNA. The company has earmarked the astounding sum of $150 million for this research. A preview of their project has been published in the American magazine “Scientific American”.

The dodo, native to the Indian Ocean area with its “epicentre” in Mauritius, was about one metre tall and weighed between 15 and 20 kilograms, and bred by laying a single egg on the ground. It became extinct in the 17th century after the arrival of humans on the islands. Being unable to fly, the dodo soon became prey to all other animals, from monkeys to mice, from dogs to cats, and quickly disappeared.

The creation of living species from DNA is far from simple because, exactly as portrayed in the Jurassic Park films, it has never been possible to obtain a vital DNA sequence. Therefore, the hypothetical laboratory creation of the dodo (or other species) will necessarily have to go through a massive genetic engineering process which can alter the genome of closely related living species, and then replicate the genome of the “target species”.