Even if Colossal can make what it calls a “functional proxy for dado,” there won’t be a clear answer about where to put it. A major agricultural industry in Mauritius is sugarcane cultivation, and there are plenty of rats and other non-native predators around. “It wouldn’t really be a dodo, it would be a new species. But it still needs an environment,” says Jennifer Lee Pook Tan, a gene sequencing specialist at Stanford University whose parents were born on the island. “What will it mean ethically if it’s not there?”

Lamm does not offer a hard time frame for dodo production. He predicted that the mammoth could arrive by 2029, while the dodo could appear sooner or later, depending on scientific factors.

Another organization, the nonprofit Revive & Restore, has worked for a decade to bring back the passenger pigeon, a bird that once dominated American skies. But he ran into a big technical problem that would also affect the Dodo project.

The problem is that while it’s easy to edit bird cells in the lab, carefully edited cells are difficult to turn into a bird. For mammals like cattle or elephants, the answer is simple: cloning. But cloning in a bird egg does not work – it is a huge cell, and its nucleus is an opaque yolk. “You’d have to take it out and implant another core, and that’s impossible to do,” McGrew says.

McGrew believes that a likely solution is to inject genetically edited cells into the gonads of a developing pigeon chick. Therefore, some of these cells will eventually form a new bird egg or sperm. If that bird then reproduces, its offspring will be related to the donor cells (and will include any DNA changes). This technology is already working, McGrew says, but so far only on chickens.

“They should be able to transfer that technology to the pigeon,” says McGrew. “We thought that what worked for chickens would work for other species, but it turned out to be difficult.”

These types of obstacles are why some scientists doubt that stopping the extinction will work, and Shapiro herself was among the skeptics, expressing doubts about the idea in an interview last year.

However, the geneticist says she has changed her mind and now sees extinction as a useful form of scientific PR. “At first I was really like, ‘I don’t know about this technology,'” Shapiro says. “But gradually I came to the idea that this is the future. We need to develop these tools and additional approaches to be able to protect today’s species from extinction. And if we want to encourage people to do that, we’re going to have to create something big, and everyone’s heard of dado.”

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