four organisms that could be brought back from the brink of extinction (and beyond)


We’ve gone in search of the coolest (and scariest) stories about bringing vulnerable animals back from the brink of extinction or, in some cases, bringing them back from the dead.

De-extinction of the Tassie tiger: an Australian Jurassic Park?

In a stunning announcement in March, the University of Melbourne announced that it had received $5 million in funding for a new research lab, the Thylacine Integrated Genomics Research Lab (TIGRR), which will primarily seek to bring thylacine back extinct (Tasmanian tiger) using genetic engineering and cloning techniques.

Once abundant in Tasmania, tigers were hunted to extinction by European settlers who thought they were killing their livestock.

The ambitious new project will take a thylacine genome, recovered from a preserved specimen, and use it as a map to rearrange the genome inside a living cell of the creature’s closest living relative, the Dunnart. . Then it will theoretically clone a living thylacine from that living cell.

But, to paraphrase Jeff Goldblum, is it about spending so much time wondering if they could, that they never stopped thinking if they should?

Learn more here.

Lost South American wildflower named ‘extinctus’ rediscovered (but still endangered)

In a rare but beautiful case of redemption, the orange tropical wildflower Gasteranthus extinct, endemic to the Andean foothills in Ecuador, it was thought to have disappeared 40 years ago.

But in a stroke of luck, a team of researchers who set out in hopes of rediscovering the plant managed to find a growing specimen, proving that it is still hanging on (though still dangerously endangered).

“We walked into Centinela thinking it was going to break our hearts, and instead we ended up falling in love,” said one of the lead researchers.

Read the full article here.

Bring back the iconic woolly mammoth

In 2017, scientists at Harvard University stunned the world when they announced plans to bring back the iconic woolly mammoth.

These iconic, massive elephant-like creatures had shaggy fur that helped them brave the frigid nature of the last Ice Age.

Mammoth de-extinction, scientists say, is possible because mammoth DNA remains in frozen carcasses found buried in permafrost in places like Siberia. They say they will use elephant DNA to fix the holes and create a living mammoth cell, which they will implant into an elephant to bring it to term, resulting in a real woolly mammoth.

But, why do it? According to Revive and Restore, a genomic research and restoration project, the absence of woolly mammoths from the tundra stopped snow compaction, which means that extreme winter cold did not penetrate the ground, causing the accelerated melting of permafrost.

So, the theory goes, these new mammoths will help reverse the melting of these greenhouse gas-filled ice stores.

Read on to find out more.

Bring back the Christmas Island rat

It may be a slightly less iconic species, but the Christmas Island rat was another victim of European expansion, vanishing from the island 119 years ago due to diseases imported from the strange foreign land.

This rat still has many living relatives, potentially making it a model species for this kind of deextinction.

Read on to find out more.


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