Passenger Pigeons – De-Extinction
ambience, Homing Pigeons
We’re listening to the sounds of Homing Pigeons and remembering their cousin the Passenger Pigeon, once one of the most abundant species on earth, now extinct for 100 years. I’m Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet. There are efforts afoot to clone the Passenger Pigeon and try to reestablish their population. They call it de-extinction. One of the places scientists turn to for pigeon DNA samples is the Royal Ontario Museum in Canada, home to the worlds largest collection of stuffed Passenger Pigeons. Mark Peck is manager of the ornithology collections.
It’s an interesting idea. I’m not sure I’m 100% for it, unfortunately. I am concerned about some of the ramifications of the de-extinction process. Does that mean that we don’t have to worry about endangered species anymore? We can just bring them back? Where are you going to put them once you bring them back? There’s a habitat loss that accounts for a lot of these extinction processes. And how long is it going to take you to actually bring back a Passenger Pigeon? To take a small segment of DNA and place it into a Bandtailed Pigeon doesn’t mean you’re going to get a real passenger pigeon in the next generation. So there’s a lot of work involved in actually doing that. The de-extinction is not going to have great monetary value. But is a very interesting process to try and work through. And with the advances in molecular research, maybe it is possible 20 or 30 years down the road. Right now it’s in its infancy and we’re not going to see Passenger Pigeons flying around North America in the near future.
My thanks to Britt Wray for recording the interview. Pulse of the Planet is made possible in part by Virginia Tech, inventing the future through a hands-on approach to education and research.