De-extinction: Sci-Fi or reality? – In the News

New Zealand scientists have cemented their role at the forefront of discussions around de-extinctions with a leading role in a special journal issue on the topic. 

University of Otago’s Professor Philip Seddon guest-edited the special issue of Functional Ecology, published this week, which included contributions from other New Zealand scientists, including University of Canterbury conservation geneticist Dr Tammy Steeves and Landcare Research paleoecologist Dr Jamie Wood.

Writing in an editorial to kick off the special issue, Prof Seddon wrote that he’s often asked ‘is this really possible?’. “My answer is yes – de-extinction has moved from science fiction to science feasibility.” The next decade, he predicts, will see the cloning or genetic reconstruction of some version of an extinct species, “one that will live long enough to breathe and shake its fur, feathers, or scales, or to unfurl a leaf”.

However, don’t get your hopes up about moa returning, he cautions; the best candidates for de-extinction might be those whose demise was more recent. “Where we might have more confidence that we understand and can manage the original threats, that habitat still exists, that we know enough about critical features of physiology, biology and behaviour, and we might be more likely to have the appropriate genetic samples, suitable surrogates and applicable husbandry manuals,” Prof Seddon wrote on Sciblogs.

The special issue was covered by New Zealand media, including:

NZ Herald: Scientists: Moa revival still a no-goer
The Wireless: De-extinction is coming, but don’t expect a real-life Jurassic Park on recently extinct and endangered species, not woolly mammoths: study
Radio NZ: The ‘Perils’ of Resurrecting Extinct Species
NZN: Species resurrection a mammoth question
The Press: Huia-like bird could sing from the branches once again, but what are the limits?

Sciblogs Series
Phil Seddon: De-extinction: the devil is in the details
Tammy Steeves: Conservation genetics of de-extinction: a primer
Jamie Wood: Exploring the past to understand the ecological requirements of de-extinction candidate species
Helen Taylor: Step 5, release your mammoth: NZ scientists tackle de-extinction consequences