The CIA Is Funding a Mission to Reincarnate the Dodo Bird

dodo bird
Nothing Dumb About Dodo Bird De-Extinction EffortsMichel VIARD - Getty Images
  • The biotech company Colossal is actively working to bring back the woolly mammoth and thylacine from extinction. Now, the company has its sights set on the dodo bird.

  • The flightless bird went extinct in the 17th century from the island of Mauritius.

  • Colossal has already successfully sequenced the bird’s genome.

The biotech company Colossal is actively working to reincarnate both the ancient woolly mammoth and the thylacine. Now, for its next trick, the Dallas-based firm is bringing back the dodo, the flightless bird that went extinct roughly 350 years ago from the island of Mauritius.

Colossal is using the backing of a surprising government partner to sequence the dodo bird’s genome using stem cell technology, the company says.

The process for bringing the dodo back includes genome understanding, tissue cultures, and interspecies surrogacy. Here’s how it will work: The dodo recreation includes “interspecies germline transfer of pigeon PGCs into a surrogate chicken host.” The Nicobar pigeon, the dodo’s closest living relative, provides the host cells for genome engineering while the Rodrigues solitaire, the dodo’s closest genetic relative, adds additional insights. The chicken offers a foundation of avian genomics and editing.

Colossal elaborates:

“The dodo bird is a symbol of man-made extinction. A glaring example of the price of carelessness. It is our intention to partner with the government of Mauritius to establish a foundation for the de-extinction and rewilding of the beloved bird we all dearly miss.”

Colossal had hoped to make the dodo bird part of its early efforts, but additional rounds of funding, including from a venture capital firm funded by the Central Intelligence Agency, has now put the dodo into the official pipeline.

The dodo, which lived on the Indian Ocean island nation of Mauritius, was taken out after Dutch settlers introduced predators to the island. The flightless bird, which grew up to 3 feet tall and weighed as much as 50 pounds, was unable to ward off black rats, wild pigs, macaque, and others in the 1600s due to laying only one egg per year. Predators were able to easily wipe out the dodo, feasting upon the eggs laid in nests located on the ground.

While we don’t know everything about the dodo, it’s generally understood that the bird wasn’t as dumb as its reputation suggests. It remains to be seen if Colossal—and the CIA—can recreate the true mind of the dodo bird, or just the body.

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