First Extinct-Animal Clone Created

Charles Q. Choi
for National Geographic News
February 10, 2009

An extinct animal has been resurrected by cloning for the first time—though the clone died minutes after birth.

Findings revealed January 23 in the journal Theriogenology describe the use of frozen skin in 2003 to clone a bucardo, or Pyrenean ibex, a subspecies of Spanish ibex that went extinct in 2000.

Scientists had cloned endangered species before, but not one that had officially died out.

(Related: "Scientists Clone First Endangered Species: A Wild Sheep" [October 29, 2001].)

Study co-author Jose Folch, of the Center for Agro-Nutrition Research and Technology in Aragon, Spain, said his team plans to try cloning another this ibex this year or next.

"We are not especially disappointed for the death of the cloned newborn," Folch explained in an email, because such deaths in cloning experiments are common.

"We will try to improve the technology in order to increase the efficiency of the cloning process."

But David Wildt, a senior scientist at the Smithsonian's National Zoological Park in Washington, D.C., who did not participate in this study, warned that the successful cloning wouldn't be the first step in creating a real-life Jurassic Park.

"The public should not leap to the conclusion that we are on the edge of cloning woolly mammoths or dinosaurs," he said. "Even if such embryos could be constructed, there are no appropriate surrogate mothers for long-dead species."

Success and Setbacks

For 200 years, hunting had thinned the Pyrenean ibex population, and the last living bucardo died in 2000, hit by a falling branch.

Using frozen skin samples taken from this lone specimen in 1999, Folch and his colleagues made clone embryos by inserting the bucardo's DNA into domestic goat eggs emptied of their original genetic material.

Continued on Next Page >>


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