The premise of “Jurassic Park” isn’t as far-fetched as it seems. While dinosaurs aren’t likely to be reincarnated anytime soon, scientists are currently working on bringing back several lost species, a process known as “de-extinction.”
While we won’t see a velociraptor or T-rex in the flesh (for better or worse), there’s a decent chance a few creatures that have been dead for years could soon walk the earth once again.
Here are 10 animals that science hopes to one day resurrect from the grave.
This bird’s demise is so famous that extinction is often referred to as the “way of the dodo.” The dodo, native to the island of Mauritius, had no predators, until humans arrived and quickly wiped them out.
Scientists have taken DNA samples from dodo mounts in museums, and the notorious dead bird could feasibly be reborn with a close relative like the pigeon as a surrogate parent.
This handsome duck species disappeared between 1850 and 1870, although researchers aren’t sure as to the cause. The duck apparently tasted poorly, so it wasn’t usually hunted for food, but it’s suspected the ducks’ eggs were overharvested or it was outcompeted by humans for its diet of shellfish.
There are several Labrador duck specimens preserved in museums around the world, meaning a Labrador duckling could one day hatch for the first time in over a century.
This beautiful bird hasn’t been officially spotted since the 1940s, even while researchers have offered huge rewards for anyone who can lead them to a living specimen. The woodpecker’s demise is generally attributed to excessive hunting and logging in the 19th century.
If the bird is truly gone, then like other extinct birds, museum specimens can provide genetic material and related woodpeckers can serve as birth mothers.
Woolly mammoths may seem as ancient as dinosaurs, but they crossed paths with humans, only dying off about 4,000 years ago. Despite its long absence, many of the giant beasts were frozen and well preserved, allowing scientists to access nearly-intact DNA from the carcasses.
The theory is that the prehistoric beast could be birthed from its close relative – the elephant.
These birds were once so numerous their flocks would practically blot out the sun, but uncontrolled hunting caused the birds to disappear by 1914. De-extinction scientists are currently working to extract DNA from preserved specimens and use pigeons as surrogate parents.
This ibex disappeared just 15 short years ago, with the last one dying out in January 2000. The ibex, which lived in southern France and the northern Pyrenees, was destroyed by hunting and competition from domestic animals for resources.
The recent extinction left scientist plenty of fresh DNA from to work with, and the Pyrenean ibex was actually cloned and implanted in the womb of a goat. Unfortunately, the animal only lived for seven minutes after birth.
This plains zebra subspecies roamed South Africa until the last wild one was shot in 1870. The last domestic quagga sadly followed not long after in 1883. The quagga was the first extinct animal to have its DNA analyzed, and a de-extinction plan is currently ongoing by selectively breeding zebras.
The baiji lived in the freshwater Yangtze River in China. It was apparently revered by locals and nicknamed the “Goddess of the Yangtze,” but its exulted status was not enough to save it from rampant industrialization.
Although there have been reported sightings, the last known living baiji died in 2002. The silver lining is that the baiji’s recent extinction means DNA can be easily extracted from existing remains.
The smilodon, or saber-toothed cat, must have terrified our prehistoric ancestors. Climate changes at the end of the Ice Age spelled the predator’s doom, however, while humans went on to thrive.
Well-preserved fossils have been discovered in tar pits in California, giving us genetic code that could bring the largest cat to ever live into the modern era. However, as of yet, the DNA that remains is unable to be sequenced.
The thyaciline, or tasmanian tiger, officially perished in 1936 by farmers and domestic dogs hunting them to extinction, although rumors abound of a few living specimens. Resarchers have been able to extract usable DNA from preserved specimens, and several studies have raised hope of sequencing the thyaciline’s entire genome.
De-extincion is a costly and laborious process, and plenty of living animals need attention, so like Jurassic Park, the question is often not how we can bring these species back, but if we should. De-extinction is full of ethical quandaries, and plenty of conservationists have asked the fair question on why we seem to care less for preserving living animals than we do for for reviving dead ones.
But as the closest thing to cloning dinosaurs, the idea isn’t likely to fade away soon. It’s an intriguing scientific concept that’s at least worth discussing, and a sign that people are looking to at last seek redemption for a history of destruction by giving animals a second chance at life.
If you could only bring back one animal from extinction, which would you choose?