DNA and cloned extinct animals are on their way

A display at the Australian Museum's When Mammoths Roamed exhibition in 2009.

Woolly mammoths stomp through the Siberian tundra as the giant moa strides the forest floor of New Zealand and Tasmania’s dog-like ”tigers” stalk their prey under the cover of night.

This is not a snapshot of times past, nor an addition to Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park movies.

Instead, it’s a scenario that some biogeneticists see as plausible in our own lifetimes: the resurrection of species driven to extinction, sometimes thousands of years ago.

A museum display of the Giant Moa.A museum display of the Giant Moa.

Next Thursday will be 60 years since Francis Crick and James Watson published their paper unveiling the structure of DNA, the double-helix genetic code for life.

Today, some experts believe that by harnessing this breakthrough knowledge, the first extinct species could be revived within years.

They could be cloned from genetic material teased from preserved tissues, with the reprogrammed egg implanted in a cousin species.

A drawing of the extinct Dodo bird.A drawing of the extinct Dodo bird.

Farther down the road, other species could live again through artificially reconstituted sequences of their DNA, goes the argument.

”For the gastric frog it would take maybe a year or two years. For a mammoth maybe 20, 30 years, maybe sooner,” evolutionary geneticist Hendrik Poinar of Canada’s McMaster University says of ongoing ”de-extinction” efforts.

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