Waking the Dead

Martha in a display case in the National Museum of Natural History, 2015. (Photo: Ph0705/WikiCommons CC BY-SA 4.0)

Martha in a display case in the National Museum of Natural History, 2015. (Photo: Ph0705/WikiCommons CC BY-SA 4.0)

If you happen to visit the National Museum of Natural History in Washington D.C, don’t just walk by this innocuous stuffed pigeon. Take a good look at Martha, because she’s the last of the world’s flock of passenger pigeons. And now the subject of the ambitious  The Great Passenger Pigeon Comeback, a “de-extinction” project aimed at reviving the species. Using the genomes of the rock pigeon and the band-tailed pigeon as a reference, project scientists aim to assemble a complete passenger pigeon genome and transfer it into the germ cells of band-tailed pigeons in order to generate live passenger pigeons. The target date for the passenger pigeons’ triumphant return is 2022.

Continue reading