New Species of Plants and Animals Discovered

Specie in news: Mauritian Dodo


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Mauritian Dodo

Mains level: NA

Mauritian Dodo

Central Idea

  • Mauritian authorities are now working to resurrect the human-caused extinct bird ‘Dodo’.

About Mauritian Dodo

Scientific Name Raphus cucullatus
Physical Characteristics Large, flightless bird; about 1 meter tall, weighing 10-18 kg; large beak, stubby wings.
Habitat Endemic to Mauritius, an island in the Indian Ocean; lived in forests and possibly coastal areas.
Discovery and Extinction Discovered by Dutch Colonist in late 16th century; extinct by the late 17th century, last sighting around 1662.
Causes of Extinction Human hunting and introduced species like rats, pigs, and monkeys.
Diet Likely fruits, nuts, seeds, bulbs, and possibly small animals.
Behavior Exhibited no fear of humans due to lack of natural predators.
Cultural Impact Symbol of extinct and endangered species; featured in the phrase “as dead as a dodo.”
Representation Depicted in literature and art, notably in Lewis Carroll’s “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.”

Science of De-Extinction

  • Genetic Blueprint: The first step in de-extinction is obtaining a complete and accurate genome of the species.
  • Genome Sequencing: Paleo-geneticists have successfully sequenced the dodo’s genome using DNA from a museum specimen.
  • Comparative Genomics: The dodo’s genome is being compared with that of its closest extinct and extant relatives to identify unique dodo traits.

Process of Resurrecting

  • Editing Genetic Material: The project involves editing the primordial germ cells (PGCs) of the Nicobar pigeon, the dodo’s closest living relative, to express dodo traits.
  • Interspecies Surrogacy: These edited PGCs will be inserted into chicken embryos, with chickens acting as interspecies surrogates to potentially birth a dodo offspring.
  • Physical Resemblance: The aim is to create a bird physically indistinguishable from historical accounts of the dodo.

Challenges and Concerns

  • Scientific Hurdles: Experts emphasize the complexity of recreating a species and the time required for selective breeding to achieve dodo-like characteristics.
  • Habitat Restoration: Mauritius’ transformed landscape poses challenges for reintroducing the dodo, necessitating the control or removal of invasive species.
  • Alternative Habitats: The project considers reintroducing dodos to more pristine, uninhabited islands like Round Island and Aigrettes.

Motivations behind the Project

  • Ecosystem Restoration: Reintroducing the dodo could help restore mutualistic relationships in Mauritius’ ecosystem, particularly in seed dispersal.
  • Conservation Technology: The techniques developed could aid in conserving and restoring other endangered avian species.
  • Symbolic Value: The project is driven by a desire to create ‘conservation optimism’, using the dodo as a symbol of hope in the face of human-caused extinctions.

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