A radical idea to support the recovery of damaged ecosystems has been gathering steam: resurrect species that have gone extinct and reintroduce them to the wild. Proponents of “de-extinction” argue that by returning species that played an important ecological role to their old habitats, entire regions could benefit.
The lab-created animals would not be the exact species that went extinct, but hybrids of those species with their DNA filled in by living relatives. The most well-known de-extinction project is an effort to bring back a version of the woolly mammoth by splicing its genome with Asian elephant DNA. The work has been a longtime project of Harvard geneticist George Church, who recently co-founded the bioscience company Colossal, with $75 million in private funding, to accelerate the research.
Today Colossal announced that it has partnered with a group of researchers at the University of Melbourne to work on the de-extinction of another animal: the thylacine, also known as the Tasmanian tiger. This Australian marsupial predator went extinct less than a century ago.