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Berkeley Scientists Plan To 'Jurassic Park' Some Extinct Pigeons Back To Life

Soulskill posted about a year ago | from the hold-on-to-your-butts dept.

Science 209

phenopticon writes "Researchers at Berkeley are attempting to revive the extinct passenger pigeon in order to set up a remote island theme park full of resurrected semi-modern extinct animals. (Well, maybe not that last part.) Quoting: 'About 1,500 passenger pigeons inhabit museum collections. They are all that's left of a species once perceived as a limitless resource. The birds were shipped in boxcars by the tons, sold as meat for 31 cents per dozen, and plucked for mattress feathers. But in a mere 25 years, the population shrank from billions to thousands as commercial hunters decimated nesting flocks. Martha, the last living bird, took her place under museum glass in 1914. ... Ben Novak doesn't believe the story should end there. The 26-year-old genetics student is convinced that new technology can bring the passenger pigeon back to life. "This whole idea that extinction is forever is just nonsense," he says. Novak spent the last five years working to decipher the bird's genes, and now he has put his graduate studies on hold to pursue a goal he'd once described in a junior high school fair presentation: de-extinction. ... Using next-generation sequencing, scientists identified the passenger pigeon's closest living relative: Patagioenas fasciata, the ubiquitous band-tailed pigeon of the American west. This was an important step. The short, mangled DNA fragments from the museums' passenger pigeons don't overlap enough for a computer to reassemble them, but the modern band-tailed pigeon genome could serve as a scaffold. Mapping passenger pigeon fragments onto the band-tailed sequence would suggest their original order."

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And after the pigeons get loose and take over.... (5, Funny)

Andrio (2580551) | about a year ago | (#43183865)

"It's a UNIX system! I know this!"

Re:And after the pigeons get loose and take over.. (4, Funny)

hawguy (1600213) | about a year ago | (#43183949)

Don't be silly, nothing like that could happen - the new birds will be engineered to make them unable to produce Lysine, so they'll be dependent upon Lysine supplements from their keepers. Stop feeding them Lysine and the bio-engineered birds will die. Easy-peasy. What could go wrong?

Re:And after the pigeons get loose and take over.. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43184457)

Pigeons...find a way.

Re:And after the pigeons get loose and take over.. (4, Funny)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about a year ago | (#43184491)

Don't be silly, nothing like that could happen - the new birds will be engineered to make them unable to produce Lysine, so they'll be dependent upon Lysine supplements from their keepers. Stop feeding them Lysine and the bio-engineered birds will die. Easy-peasy. What could go wrong?

That's why Passenger Pigeons are the perfect choice. Clone a badass motherfucker, like a dinosaur, back to life, and any failure of the failsafes(which never are) makes you carnivore food.

Clone a dumb bird that suffered hundreds of millions of casualties against humans armed with 18th century technology? No problem. What're they going to do, lame you to death?

Re:And after the pigeons get loose and take over.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43184215)

Well, yes, it was a Unix system. IRIX to be exact.

Re:And after the pigeons get loose and take over.. (2)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about a year ago | (#43184473)

Well, yes, it was a Unix system. IRIX to be exact.

These days, you can have it too [youtube.com] :-)

Re:And after the pigeons get loose and take over.. (1)

ajlitt (19055) | about a year ago | (#43184265)

The solution is obviously to "Jurassic Park" Robert Frost.

Re:And after the pigeons get loose and take over.. (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43184339)

John Conure will teach us how to beat them.

Re:And after the pigeons get loose and take over.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43184529)

Mod up! I hurt myself laughing at this.

Re:And after the pigeons get loose and take over.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43184401)

"It's a UNIX system! I know this!"

But 2013 is the year of the Linux desktop, so surely that line will be change to "It's a Linux system! I know this!".

what could go wrong? (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43183877)

GMOs released into the wild is a very bad thing. It is impossible to predict the ramifications of this.
While I'd like to restore an extinct species, this sort of thing is outright irresponsible.

Re:what could go wrong? (5, Insightful)

Joce640k (829181) | about a year ago | (#43183959)

While I'd like to restore an extinct species, this sort of thing is outright irresponsible.

As irresponsible as wiping them out without thinking of the ramifications?

Re:what could go wrong? (3, Interesting)

hawguy (1600213) | about a year ago | (#43184041)

While I'd like to restore an extinct species, this sort of thing is outright irresponsible.

As irresponsible as wiping them out without thinking of the ramifications?

What about the ramifications of bringing an extinct bird back to life that was adapted to thrive in a much different environment than exists today? Are its natural predators still around or will the passenger pigeon take over and push out other species (not to mention causing crop and tree damage)?

http://www.si.edu/encyclopedia_Si/nmnh/passpig.htm [si.edu]

Because the passenger pigeon congregated in such huge numbers, it needed large forests for its existence. When the early settlers cleared the eastern forests for farmland, the birds were forced to shift their nesting and roosting sites to the forests that still remained. As their forest food supply decreased, the birds began utilizing the grain fields of the farmers. The large flocks of passenger pigeons often caused serious damage to the crops, and the farmers retaliated by shooting the birds and using them as a source of meat. However, this did not seem to seriously diminish the total number of birds.

Has anyone asked Jeff Goldblum [imdb.com] to weigh in?

Re:what could go wrong? (4, Insightful)

The Grim Reefer (1162755) | about a year ago | (#43184145)

Are its natural predators still around

Well the one that made it an extinct species in less than 25 years is. We're also more prevalent than ever and could probably do it more efficiently now too.

or will the passenger pigeon take over and push out other species (not to mention causing crop and tree damage)?

Unless they are much different than current pigeons, I think bridges and building are in more danger.

Re:what could go wrong? (3, Interesting)

hawguy (1600213) | about a year ago | (#43184277)

or will the passenger pigeon take over and push out other species (not to mention causing crop and tree damage)?

Unless they are much different than current pigeons, I think bridges and building are in more danger.

Well, that's kind of the problem with bringing back an extinct species - you don't really know how will behave in the current environment until you bring it back. At first it's declared an endangered/protected species, and it starts to grow... flocks of thousands of birds in the air show the success of the program. Then the flocks grow millions, people start to complain about crop damage as the flocks grow to 100's of millions, putting entire forests are at risk.

It took man 25 years to drive them to extinction (and that's when he had the help from natural predators the had evolved to keep the birds in check), even if it "only" takes 10 years the next time, there's a lot of damage that could be done in the meantime. Plus, man may overshoot the mark and drive other species to extinction in their drive to control the passenger pigeon.

Sometimes it's better to let sleeping dogs lie.

Re:what could go wrong? (4, Informative)

Algae_94 (2017070) | about a year ago | (#43184493)

I hear what your saying about the dangers of bringing back extinct species, but the last passenger pigeon died in 1914. It's not exactly like their predators have all evolved into something else. We already have other pigeons, sure this is a different species, but I think we have a good idea about their behavior and biology from similar species and historic accounts.

Re:what could go wrong? (2)

nospam007 (722110) | about a year ago | (#43184513)

" I think bridges and building are in more danger."

Thank god you're not a statue.

Re:what could go wrong? (4, Interesting)

Zumbs (1241138) | about a year ago | (#43184153)

Bringing them back could raise some interesting questions on how the behavior of animals are inherited from generation to generation. Will the passenger pigeons act like their ancestors or will they take on different behavior?

Re:what could go wrong? (2)

gtbritishskull (1435843) | about a year ago | (#43184253)

Passenger pidgeons would be easy to eradicate again if needed. They rely on having enormous numbers to survive (like a cicada, or locusts). When a flock moves into the area, there are not enough predators to eat anywhere near a significant portion of the population. If they don't have a big enough flock, then they are easily wiped out by natural predation. And, if they do have a big flock, then humans can kill off a majority of it (as we have demonstrated in the past).

Re:what could go wrong? (1)

KingSkippus (799657) | about a year ago | (#43184575)

Are its natural predators still around or will the passenger pigeon take over and push out other species (not to mention causing crop and tree damage)?

Don't worry, we can bring that stuff back, too!

Re:what could go wrong? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43184341)

It's a pigeon. I'm normally all for protecting biodiversity in as much as nature would without us, but... it's a pigeon. It doesn't appear that the end of one minor variant has done any serious damage to our ecosystem. I realize I'm treading dangerously close to Limbaugh-style rhetoric here. I'm not advocating the careless destruction of species.

And as a procedural experiment and a lead-up to bringing back something we don't have trillions of, I'm sure it's entirely worth doing.

Re:what could go wrong? (2)

khallow (566160) | about a year ago | (#43184173)

What makes you think this is GMO related? Is this guy going to splice in some roundup genes?

Re:what could go wrong? (1)

gtbritishskull (1435843) | about a year ago | (#43184269)

GMO stands for "Genetically Modified Organism".

Re:what could go wrong? (1)

shaitand (626655) | about a year ago | (#43184547)

This isn't a genetically modified organism. He is producing a faithful reproduction of a natural organism not modifying the genetics of one.

Re:what could go wrong? (1)

gtbritishskull (1435843) | about a year ago | (#43184651)

He is trying to make a faithful reproduction. In actuality, he is going to use another organism's DNA as a base and splice genes from the passenger pidgeon onto it. So, it will be a mixture of the two creature's DNA. Might be 99% passenger pidgeon, but that is still a mixture. So, it will be a GMO. Not trying to judge whether this is "good" or "bad", just trying to be accurate.

Re:what could go wrong? (2)

tylikcat (1578365) | about a year ago | (#43184755)

Well, no, he's looking at using recovered DNA to create a hybrid with a modern species - which is indeed a genetically modified organism. (And is pretty much what was being discussed in Jurassic Park, stripped of the sensational and thriller elements. Well, and the mosquitos preserved in amber.)

Re:what could go wrong? (1)

fldsofglry (2754803) | about a year ago | (#43184705)

In America, the basic ecology of the passenger pigeon was known. I am sure there were nuances that we could have discovered about their role in the environment, but in general, their niche has been taken up by the mourning doves (Zenaida macroura). If we were to magically have breeding populations of passenger pigeons around, I suspect that we would see mourning dove populations decline and move back toward their more "natural" niche from pre-19th century.

and then (2)

synapse7 (1075571) | about a year ago | (#43183881)

saber-tooth tigers?

Re:and then (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43183957)

Who's starting the crowd funding page?

Re:and then (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43183965)

How about bring back some species of bees to try to reinforce those that may currently be in danger? It would be a real pain if people had to go from flower to flower ensuring that pollination occurs.....

Re:and then (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43184369)

How about letting the scientists doing the proof of concept choose the species they start with rather than bitching that the "cloning extinct species" equivalent of "Hello World" isn't useful enough.

Re:and then (1)

nospam007 (722110) | about a year ago | (#43184549)

"How about bring back some species of bees to try to reinforce those that may currently be in danger?"

The bees that killed all the dinosaurs, because they were pissed about the bad weather after the asteroid hit?

Re:and then (4, Informative)

schneidafunk (795759) | about a year ago | (#43183973)

Actually on the list of candidates [longnow.org] they list the Smilodon (saber-toothed cat).

Re:and then (1)

Bigby (659157) | about a year ago | (#43184001)

I think there was a study (and /. posting) that it is theoretically not possible to "Jurassic Park" anything older than Saber Tooth or Mammoth. I think it is because of the genetic half-life. So doing a Saber Tooth probably wouldn't be the next step. More like one of the last steps. But it might be the most profitable...

Samuel L says (2)

ILongForDarkness (1134931) | about a year ago | (#43184047)

I'm tired of the motha-fuckin saber-tooth tigers on the motha-fuckin golf course!

This is pretty old news (not surprising for /. I guess) but there was a Ted talk I think on Monday and it was filmed in February. I disagree with some of the ad hoc de-extinctions they propose. Lets bring back the wooly mammoth. Okay, so how well is things working out for normal elephants? Do you really thing asia won't go apeshit for some mammoth tusks?

Lets say we clearly know it was humans fault that a particular animal went extinct. Even then there are a lot of issues. The ecosystem has now changed if you add the animal again it might just go back to being extinct because it might be poorly adapted (wrong colour to camouflage in urban environment for example), might still be of interest to poachers so as quick as you bring them back they get hunted right back down to extinction, and finally they might put other "invasive species" or ones that were already part of the ecosystem but grew due to lack of competition at risk as they come back and displace them.

That is just the ones that we feel guilty about but nothing will stop the tree huggers from wanting to get us to bring back everything even if it went extinct for its own good reasons or will have huge adverse effects in systems we already have trouble maintaining: ex. bringing back dinosaurs into jungles we are already cutting down for lumber. Not every species deserves or needs to thrive that is how evolution works. If you are too slow and too tasty you die.

Re:and then (1)

WindBourne (631190) | about a year ago | (#43184219)

Only after mammoths and mastodons.

Re:and then (1)

roc97007 (608802) | about a year ago | (#43184231)

I was thinking, the Rocky Mountain Locust.

Then, after that, smallpox.

Re:and then (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43184447)

Smallpox isn't technically extinct. There are many samples in suspended animation in the vaults owned by various CDC equivalent agencies around the world.

We're also clear of heard immunity (I doubt anyone under the age of 30 is immunized, and it's probably patchy in the 30-50 range) so all you'd need to do is infect a suitable population with one of the samples and it'd be a real disease again.

Ah Ah Ah! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43183917)

You didn't say the magic word!

Time frame (4, Interesting)

schneidafunk (795759) | about a year ago | (#43183939)

"How soon will some extinct creature live again?

Signs are there will be some impressive milestones in this decade. Technically one extinction has already been partially reversed. The last Pyrenean ibex (also called a bucardo) died in 2000. A Spanish team used frozen tissue to clone a living twin in 2003, birthed by a goat. The baby ibex died of respiratory failure after ten minutes (a common problem in early cloning efforts). Funding dried up, so no further work has been done on this species as yet. As George Church reminds people, the first airplane flight in 1903 lasted 12 seconds."

From the FAQ - http://longnow.org/revive/faq-recommended-reading/ [longnow.org]

Re:Time frame (4, Insightful)

Joce640k (829181) | about a year ago | (#43183987)

The last Pyrenean ibex (also called a bucardo) died in 2000

...yet there's a media panic if the supply of Twinkies looks like it's in danger.

Priorities, people.

Re:Time frame (5, Funny)

The Grim Reefer (1162755) | about a year ago | (#43184181)

The last Pyrenean ibex (also called a bucardo) died in 2000

...yet there's a media panic if the supply of Twinkies looks like it's in danger.

Priorities, people.

Holy shit! I didn't know about this. So we've finally hunted the Twinkies into extinction? How may breeding pairs of Twinkies are left?

Re:Time frame (2)

Attila Dimedici (1036002) | about a year ago | (#43184439)

Well, no new Twinkies have been "born" since November. Fortunately, Twinkies have a life span of indefinite duration and scientists are now predicting that they will be able to get them started at reproduction again by this summer.

Re:Time frame (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43184509)

The last Pyrenean ibex (also called a bucardo) died in 2000

...yet there's a media panic if the supply of Twinkies looks like it's in danger.

Well duh! Twinkies are delicious, while the Pyrenean Ibex is too gamey to be delicious.

Tastiness talks.

Re:Time frame (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43184751)

This humorous "cult of silliness" with Twinkies, pizza, bacon, etc started in social sites (low entry barrier for ideas) and has gained ground in mainstream outlets. I was immediately reminded of the attention given to the heist on the maple syrup reserve.

Re:Time frame (1)

Bigby (659157) | about a year ago | (#43184065)

And airplane flights today could last a maximum of a day. That doesn't speak to well for cloned species in 2100.

* tongue-in-cheek

Re:Time frame (2)

kaiidth (104315) | about a year ago | (#43184203)

The record is apparently 216 hours for the Rutan Voyager, that is, nine days.

Okay, if survival times for cloned species scale up linearly with flight endurance records, it still isn't great news for the ibex...

Just Like Computers! (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43184115)

As George Church reminds people, the first airplane flight in 1903 lasted 12 seconds."

Just like the first computers only used two digits: ones and zeros. And look at us today!

Unintended consequences (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43183955)

Maybe there was a reason that people where so eager to get rid of those pigeons back in the day. Think of today's Canadian geese for example.

The idea that the laboratory reincarnated species can be confined to an island of the scientists' choosing, well that's just laughable. There *will* be issues with locales around the world that never dreamed they'd see the critters.

Re:Unintended consequences (3, Funny)

olsmeister (1488789) | about a year ago | (#43184197)

I'm sure there are a lot of Canadian geese of many varieties that live on farms in Canada, but I suspect you mean to use the Canada Goose for your example.

Re:Unintended consequences (1)

Desler (1608317) | about a year ago | (#43184259)

They were hunting them for food not to get rid of them.

Re:Unintended consequences (1)

Looker_Device (2857489) | about a year ago | (#43184375)

Maybe we could train the Passenger Pigeons to fight the Canada Geese. Win-win!

Screw Pigeons (2)

buzzsawddog (1980902) | about a year ago | (#43183961)

I want my dog back. Perhaps modify the gene's so he does not run out in the middle of the road?

MOD PARENT UP! (1)

Brett Buck (811747) | about a year ago | (#43184019)

Thread over, you win!

Re:Screw Pigeons (1)

Desler (1608317) | about a year ago | (#43184275)

Did he sing any good songs?

Re:Screw Pigeons (1)

nman64 (912054) | about a year ago | (#43184721)

No, just "Walking on Sunshine"...

That's how you do it (4, Insightful)

gurps_npc (621217) | about a year ago | (#43183963)

We don't resurrect the huge man killers, we bring back the harmless little ones.

Yes, we could have started with saber-tooth tigers. But no, we don't.

Because this isn't a movie, and we aren't pretending to be idiots just to move a plot along.

Re:That's how you do it (1)

TheFakeMcCoy (1485631) | about a year ago | (#43184003)

They just haven't told us about the tigers that's what youtube is for

Re:That's how you do it (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43184171)

No. Just no. I wish ALL pigeons were extinct. You want to bring them back? Fine. I hope they poop all over YOUR car. At least you can shoot the big animals for sport, and if you hunt them to extinction again, what's the loss?

This method won't resurrect knowledge. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43183997)

How do you resurrect a species learnt abilities and knowledge ? Okay birds look like pre-programmed robots, but saying things like "extinction is forever is just nonsense" is wrong. Numerous species pass their hunting, social, swimming or hiding knowledge from parents to children. In fact, even birds learn singing from listening to those of their kind.
Actually, i think when you resurrect a species, you just engineer a new one using pieces of stuff drawn from existing material ; lost knowledge is lost forever.

Re:This method won't resurrect knowledge. (3, Informative)

scotts13 (1371443) | about a year ago | (#43184367)

How do you resurrect a species learnt abilities and knowledge ? Okay birds look like pre-programmed robots, but saying things like "extinction is forever is just nonsense" is wrong. Numerous species pass their hunting, social, swimming or hiding knowledge from parents to children. In fact, even birds learn singing from listening to those of their kind.
Actually, i think when you resurrect a species, you just engineer a new one using pieces of stuff drawn from existing material ; lost knowledge is lost forever.

This has proven to be a problem, even (perhaps especially) with birds. Great efforts have been made to captive-breed Thick-Billed parrots, and reintroduce them to their former, southern USA habitat. The released birds typically starve. They have a very specific diet, and they don't have other birds in the wild to show them how to find it.

Is it a good thing? (4, Insightful)

coolmoose25 (1057210) | about a year ago | (#43184013)

I read the article. One of the questions is whether or not it is a good thing to bring them back. Sure, humans brutally hunted them, but prior to that, they were quite the pests... destroying the trees they nested in and leaving "leavings" an inch thick. One of the points made by the guy running this now was that they should go through the exercise of figuring out answers to questions like those, before it gets to the point where DIY folks could do this in an irresponsible way. It might serve as a way to determine what the risks and benefits are for "de-extinction" before deciding to "de-extinct" anything.

Re:Is it a good thing? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43184099)

Risks: Billions of these birds all over, i.e. nothing that hasn't happened before. Benefits: Cheap free-range chow.

Re:Is it a good thing? (1)

Cro Magnon (467622) | about a year ago | (#43184301)

Risks: Billions of these birds all over, i.e. nothing that hasn't happened before.

Yeah, but the environment is different than it was when those pigeons were alive. For one thing, with the automobile everywhere, there are vastly more targets than there were in their day. The thought of hundreds of million of cars covered in pigeon poop should scare anyone! Don't do it!!

Re:Is it a good thing? (2)

WillAdams (45638) | about a year ago | (#43184445)

Read about the things --- flocks would _whitewash_ the ground in guano and would eat a significant portion of a field before moving on.

Re:Is it a good thing? (3, Informative)

Somebody Is Using My (985418) | about a year ago | (#43184357)

I don't see the problem. Problems like these have already been considered by the experts [wikipedia.org]

When the pigeons become a pest, we just release some Bolivian tree lizards. If those become a nuisance, we simply release wave after wave of Chinese needle snakes. They'll wipe out the lizards. If you have a problem with snakes, well, we've lined up a fabulous type of gorilla that thrives on snake meat. And the beautiful part of /that/ plan is, when wintertime rolls around the gorillas simply freeze to death [snpp.com] !

See? Nature will find a way! So clone, my little mad scientists, clone like you have never cloned before!

Dinosaur DNA (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43184017)

So, why can't we do this with man-eating dinosaurs?? There isn't ANY of their DNA preserved anywhere? Nowhere? No permanently frozen places, or inside a sealed, fossilized drop of sap? Nothing?
I want the real Jurassic Park.... not pigeons

Here's how it all goes down... (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43184031)

God creates pigeons. God destroys pigeons. God creates Man. Man destroys God. Man creates pigeons. Pigeons destroy Man. Pigeons inherit the Earth.

Re:Here's how it all goes down... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43184155)

Pigeons create God. God smites Pigeons with both wings and beak. God creates Homo lolcatus.

Re:Here's how it all goes down... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43184325)

Hitchcock had it right all along!
Death to the birds!

Re:Here's how it all goes down... (4, Funny)

P-niiice (1703362) | about a year ago | (#43184635)

Is that the pecking order?

More FrankenBird than Un-extinction (3, Insightful)

coinreturn (617535) | about a year ago | (#43184033)

The short, mangled DNA fragments from the museums' passenger pigeons don't overlap enough for a computer to reassemble them, but the modern band-tailed pigeon genome could serve as a scaffold. Mapping passenger pigeon fragments onto the band-tailed sequence would suggest their original order."

Not quite the original, so not exactly a de-extinction. More of a new breed of Frankenbird.

Re:More FrankenBird than Un-extinction (3, Informative)

schneidafunk (795759) | about a year ago | (#43184605)

To be fair, you are quoting the summary and that is not said on the project's main website. However, they do say:

" Its DNA has already been sequenced... The genomes of the two birds will be compared in close detail, to determine which differences are most crucial. Then the data and analysis goes to George Church’s lab at Harvard’s Wyss Institute to begin the process of converting the viable band-tailed DNA into viable passenger pigeon DNA... There are some 1,500 preserved specimens with extractable DNA."

http://longnow.org/revive/projects/ [longnow.org]

Say what? (1)

fustakrakich (1673220) | about a year ago | (#43184035)

Suggest their original order?

Is that like when I order a chocolate sundae and I get a ham on rye?

I have a feeling that they will hatch inside out, or some other horror movie equivalent..

Re:Say what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43184225)

Suggest their original order?

Is that like when I order a chocolate sundae and I get a ham on rye?

I have a feeling that they will hatch inside out, or some other horror movie equivalent..

Depends on if they have any missing fragments. They've effectively got fragments of one version of the bible, so they're comparing it to the text of another version to try to get the order right: many parts will overlap and match exactly, so they can be pretty damn sure where those parts go. Some parts of each version will have text which is slightly different, but if you know the meaning you can match the differently-phrased-but-identical-meaning parts and be relatively confident they're in the right place.

The problem is if there are large chunks of text missing from the passenger pigeon code. If the gap is large enough it increases the chance you're going to have differences between the original passenger pigeon code and the band-tailed pigeon code. Do you just substitute the other in and hope for the best?

Re:Say what? (2)

wierd_w (1375923) | about a year ago | (#43184531)

They have over 1000 stuffed pidgeons though. Assuming only half of them have extractable dna (a very pessimistic figure), even if a single stuffed corpse is missing a viable gene sequence, there are 499 other birds that might have the missing section. Odds are good that they will be able to assemble a few "complete bibles" from the patched together scraps.

The long term issue I see is genetic bottlenecking, like what currently plagues the cheetah. 1000 COMPLETE copies is the bare minimum, assuming that all samples are unrelated, to efficiently preserve and purpetuate a species without having lots of deleterious homolozygous mutations showing up over time. These passenger pidgeons would be likely to develop sterility issues, and deleterious genetic disorders. "De-extincting" them would mean continual cloning and reintroduction of birds into the genepool to boost the numbers of healthy genes in the population. I doubt he would be able to crowdsource that kind of long term financial investment.

What we have here, is around 1000 incomplete copies. The number of whole genome sequences they can lift from those pieces greatly determines how viable the passenger pidgeon will be as a reintroduced wild species. With their sample size, and the conditions of their samples, however, prospects aren't terribly optimistic.

End meme dominance now! (1)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | about a year ago | (#43184045)

"This whole idea that extinction is forever is just nonsense," [Novak]says.

I've been saying his for 10 damned years. While local ecosystem issues might be of mild concern, the idea of some horrific, inconceivable, once-and-for-all loss is asinine, and people a hundred years from now will look back on grinding regulations as beyond stupid insofar as it slows down the economy, when delta-tech outweighs all other considerations when seeking to save lives.

"Jurassic Park"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43184087)

Oh, yeah. All nouns can be verbed.

Re:"Jurassic Park"? (1)

TheSkepticalOptimist (898384) | about a year ago | (#43184331)

Sure, put ify in front of any noun and you can verbify it.

Re:"Jurassic Park"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43184621)

LOL can "verb" be verbed too? Oh, now you got ME saying it...

Nifty! (4, Funny)

onyxruby (118189) | about a year ago | (#43184097)

Okay, I've read this book / seen this movie and know how this turns out so I've got a checklist for when extinct pigeons inevitably become terror-pigeons.

( ) Train young child on Unix
( ) Use old fashioned door knobs
( ) Get several big guns and don't store them in another building
( ) Make sure vehicles are ICE and not electric
( ) Redundant computer systems are good. You don't have good enough backups.
( ) Happy computer administrators are important when hosting terror critters. Make admins happy.
( ) The guy with the military training and the lawyer are always the first victims, get to know one of each so that you have warning
( ) Outhouses are bad
( ) Big thick steel doors are your friend
( ) Things can go wrong, that's what the lawyer and military training guys are for
( ) Objects in mirror are closer than they appear. Add more power to Jeep.

Obvious quote (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43184113)

John Hammond: Condors. Condors are on the verge of extinction...
Dr. Ian Malcolm: [shaking his head] No...
John Hammond: If I was to create a flock of condors on this island, you wouldn't have anything to say.

Should I Welcome Our New Internet Overlords? (2)

hutsell (1228828) | about a year ago | (#43184141)

Give the problem to Google, Microsoft and Mozilla--the constant one-upmanship in this recreation could turn out to be interesting.

we should (2)

P-niiice (1703362) | about a year ago | (#43184157)

We should make their shit be made of Gorilla Glue. That is what we should do.

What do you get... (3, Funny)

Tx (96709) | about a year ago | (#43184177)

Q: What do you get when you revive an extinct species of giant pig [wikipedia.org] ?
A: Jurassic pork

OK, I'll get my coat.

I wish to complain about this parrot (2)

fantomas (94850) | about a year ago | (#43184179)

It's not dead, it's resting! [youtube.com] (oblig. Motny Python reference...)

Fuck pigeons * (2)

jolyonr (560227) | about a year ago | (#43184267)

Bring back a mammoth.

* figuratively, not literally, please.

Boring (2)

locopuyo (1433631) | about a year ago | (#43184279)

I would never pay to go to an island and see a pigeon. I want to see a Tyrannosaurus Rex. Start working on the good animals.

Seriously, pigeons? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43184287)

Judging from the amount of crap they leave on my terrace, we really don't need more species of pigeon. Silly scientists.

We don't need anymore flying rats (1)

BLToday (1777712) | about a year ago | (#43184309)

Why don't we find a use for all the city pigeons we do have right now. Make them tasty and I'm sure we can get rid of them within a generation.

Its easy to do (4, Funny)

TheSkepticalOptimist (898384) | about a year ago | (#43184311)

Inject the extinct DNA into a goat, milk the goat, distill the milk to get some stem cells of the extinct species out of it, put the stem cells into the kidneys of a mouse, clone the mouse 526 times, kill the mice, put them all in a BlendTec blender and whiz it for a bit, feed the muck to some chickens who will eventually hatch the extinct pigeons, market a new line of extra crispy "chicken" at KFC.

I mean is so freakin obvious how to do this kind of stuff I am not sure why we don't revive all extinct species in this way.

Why not choose a more appealing subject? (1)

leftover (210560) | about a year ago | (#43184347)

If you are going to expend those resources why not pick something more desirable?
Bring Lindsey Lohan back to life and keep her/them away from Hollywood, for instance.
And whatever happened to the effort to reconstruct the auroch? I'd really like to see them.

Re:Why not choose a more appealing subject? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43184461)

And whatever happened to the effort to reconstruct the auroch? I'd really like to see them.

Me too! Look at the size [wikimedia.org] of those things! Can you imagine the barbecue?

Hmmm... sounds familiar (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43184429)

"The short, mangled DNA fragments from the museums' passenger pigeons don't overlap enough for a computer to reassemble them, but the modern band-tailed pigeon genome could serve as a scaffold. Mapping passenger pigeon fragments onto the band-tailed sequence would suggest their original order.""

"MR. DNA(straining)
- - to fill in the - - holes and - -complete - - the - -
(finally getting it)- - code! Whew!
He brushes his hands off, satisfied.
MR. DNA (cont'd)
Now we can make a baby dinosaur! .... Err a Pigeon!"

Grammar (1)

emblemparade (774653) | about a year ago | (#43184683)

I love that Jurassic Park verbed.

Please don't do it. (1)

ctrl-alt-canc (977108) | about a year ago | (#43184697)

I just finished cleaning my patio from pidgeon droppings, you insensitive clod!

Next-generation (2)

tobiasly (524456) | about a year ago | (#43184757)

"Using next-generation sequencing..."

I see what you did there.

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