A team of Spanish and French scientists effectively proved that the revival of extinct species is now possible by bringing back a wild goat that has been extinct for a decade. The wild goat is known as the “bucardo.” The bucardo (Capra pyrenaica pyrenaica) is a large creature, weighing more than 200 pounds, and has long curved horns.
The animal inhabited the Pyrenees, the large mountain range that divides Spain from France. Hunters eventually decimated the bucardo population over the centuries. In 1989, a team of Spanish scientists discovered that only a dozen or so of the wild goat were left. Ten years later, only one remained: a female found by the Monte and Ordesa Perdido National Park, headed by wildlife researcher Alberto Fernández-Arias. The last bucardo was nicknamed “Celia.”
The wildlife preservation team equipped Celia with a radio tracker and sent her out into the wild. Nine months later, the tracker indicated she was dead, crushed by a fallen tree, officially making the bucardo a member of the extinct species list.
However, Celia’s cells were retrieved from her dead body and preserved in labs in Madrid and Zaragoza. A team of reproductive biologists led by José Folch began working on bringing the extinct species back to life. They implanted the nuclei of Celia’s cells into goat eggs who have had their DNA emptied, the eggs were then introduced to surrogate mothers. After many failed conceptions and miscarriages, a burcardo was born.
The revival of extinct species, de-extinction, is now said to be possible with other species besides the bucardo. A team of biologists started the project: Revive and Restore. The main goal of the endeavour is to bring formerly extinct animals back to life.
The biologists stated that the carrier pigeon is the most likely to be revived, but that they are also working on reviving the woolly mammoth. Revive and Restore is working with Russian researcher, Sergey Zimov, who created a preserve for mammoths in SIberia called Pleistocene Park. Revive and Restore state on their website that their goal is to maintain biodiversity and genetic diversity in diminished eco-systems.
Observers have criticized these efforts, citing that a benefit to humans is unclear. Critics have also expressed their concern that the procedure of reviving of extinct species is too costly, and cruel to animals. The buraco revival effort brought on many miscarriages and the birthed buraco only lived 10 minutes before dying of lung complications.
Revive and Restore is now utilizing three different methods to make the revival of new species possible: selective back-breeding of descendants of the species to recreate a primeval ancestor, cloning with cells from cryopreserved tissue from a recently extinct species to create eggs that can be fertilized (what was used for the buraco revival), and hybridizing existing species to genome edit and produce a species that has very close DNA similarity to an extinct animal.
The Revive and Restore effort has been compared to the premise of the film Jurassic Park by observers and themselves. The team stated that de-extinction is complicated and that although they do not have a viable date when the project will be successful, it will certainly take a lot of time.
By Andres Loubriel