Could scientists really bring dinosaurs back to life? An evolutionary biologist explainsby Beth Shapiro / June 4, 2015 / Leave a comment
The science of de-extinction—research into how we might be able to bring species that have become extinct back to life—is a rapidly emerging field. It’s not completely surprising that the idea has attracted so much attention. It’s a fascinating thought that we might be able to revive long-lost species such as the mammoth or even, as Jurassic Park imagines, dinosaurs. But it’s also appealing because if extinction is not forever, then it lets us off the hook. If we can bring species that we have driven to extinction back to life, then we can right our wrongs before it is too late. We can have a second chance, clean up our act and restore a healthy and diverse future, before it is too late to save our own species.
I run a research laboratory at University of California, Santa Cruz. My lab specialises in a field of biology called “ancient DNA.” We and other scientists working in this field develop tools to isolate DNA sequences from bones, teeth, hair, seeds, and other tissues of organisms that used to be alive, and use these DNA sequences to study ancient populations and communities. The DNA that we extract from these remains is largely in a terrible condition, which is not surprising given that it can be as old as 700,000 years. But even if we are able to generate a genome sequence, we then have to transform a bunch of letters into a living thing.
While it is still not possible to bring extinct species back to life, science is making progress in this direction. In 2009, a team of Spanish and…