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It's Called 'De-Extinction' — It's Like 'Jurassic Park,' Except It's Real

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It's Called 'De-Extinction' — It's Like 'Jurassic Park,' Except It's Real

National Geographic

It's Called 'De-Extinction' — It's Like 'Jurassic Park,' Except It's Real

It's Called 'De-Extinction' — It's Like 'Jurassic Park,' Except It's Real

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/174322143/174383293" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

Sorry to disappoint, but science writer Carl Zimmer says we're not going to bring back dinosaurs. But, he says, "science has developed to the point where we can actually talk seriously about possibly bringing back more recently extinct species."

It's called "de-extinction" — and it's Zimmer's cover story for National Geographic's April issue.

Resurrection Tintypes

To capture the mood of this story, National Geographic hired tintype photographer Robb Kendrick. He used a nearly extinct photo technique to capture museum exhibits of extinct species.

In 2003, he tells Morning Edition's Steve Inskeep, scientists took some DNA that had been rescued from the very last bucardo, a type of wild goat that had recently gone extinct. And, long story short, they used a surrogate egg and mother to bring a bucardo — or something close to it — back to life. It was born with birth defects, lived for 10 minutes, and then went extinct again. But scientists saw this as a major breakthrough.

National Geographic
 

How de-extinction works is complicated, and that's what the National Geographic article is for. The bigger, arguably more pressing, question is: Why develop de-extinction? And there's a discussion about that on National Geographic's website, as well.

Ross MacPhee, a curator of mammalogy at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, is quoted in the magazine article as saying: "What we really need to think about is why we would want to do this in the first place, to actually bring back a species."

Leave your comments here, or join the discussion there. You can also follow what the leading scientists think, as they gather Friday for a daylong TEDx event in Washington, D.C. Or learn more in this TED talk by Stewart Brand, who heads up the Revive and Restore project.

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