• The Case for Bringing Back the Passenger Pigeon - Issue 42 : Fakes

    North Dakota is not known for its pigeons. Or forests, for that matter. The state bird is the western meadowlark, a mellifluous yellow songbird often seen singing on fence posts. Such posts substitute for trees in much of North Dakota. The state is primarily covered in what was once short-grass prairie but is now mostly farms embedded in a human-made grassland, exceptions being the Badlands and a swath of boreal forest in the far north near Canada. Yet it was near Williston, the heart of western North Dakota’s new boom-and-bust oil patch, that Ben Novak first fell in love with Ectopistes migratorius—the passenger pigeon, a bird that rarely graced this region, if ever.feathered eclipse: There were once so many wild passenger pigeons that people were encouraged to hunt them—some said the (...)

    • There is no ideal candidate for de-extinction, just those slightly more or less viable. When experimenting with an extinct species, at least the pressure is off: The worst has already happened. “If we fail,” Novak says, “we learn things that are valuable for conservation. And if we succeed, the world gets a new organism.”


    • But is that a passenger pigeon? What makes for a species distinct from its relatives, the banded pigeon or the all too abundant rock dove, Columba livia? The new bird will have the immune system of a band-tailed pigeon and the color of a passenger pigeon. So what is it? “There is no such thing as purity,” Novak reminds me. Messy mixing may be the fate of all life in the Anthropocene. Novak is not really making a passenger pigeon, but a chimera.

      [...] Even if Novak succeeds in assembling his pigeon, the consequences of its reintroduction remain fuzzy at best. How would Novak’s new species learn to be passenger pigeons?

      #mammouth #pigeon_migrateur #dé-extinction #CRISPR