|MadSci Network: Cell Biology|
Dear Scott, Interestingly, there was a news story that made the rounds a while ago about approval for a project to clone the huia, an extinct bird: http://www.cnn.com/NATURE/9907/20/cloning.enn/ http://www.enn.com/news/enn-stories/1999/07/072099/huiaclone_4446.asp There is a nicely-written "recipe" for doing this: http://www.nzbirds.com/Cloning.html Unfortunately, this doesn't seem likely to succeed anytime soon. As far as I can discover, no bird has yet been cloned, although a company was claiming that it was going to clone chickens on a massive scale in 2001-2002. There have so far been no announcements of success at cloning chickens. This doesn't bode well for the passenger pigeon, as living cells from chickens are available in abundance and there is considerable commercial interest in cloning chickens. This is just to say that cloning a new species that is different from ones that have already been cloned is hard. An endangered mammalian species was cloned using a surrogate that was a different species: http://www.elements.nb.ca/theme/endangeredspecies/cheetah/mediaarticle.htm So, to address your questions: Q1. Is it possible to clone the extinct passenger pigeon? A1. Theoretically yes, but in practical terms at the present time, probably not. Q2. If it is possible to clone the passenger pigeon how might you clone it? A2. See the recipe for the huia above. Q3. The Mourning Dove is closest looking creature to the extinct passenger pigeon. Is it possible that the extinct passenger pigeon still has genome? A3. The Passenger Pigeon had a genome similar to, but distinct from, the Mourning Dove and other birds. Q4. Do bird feathers have DNA in them? Where could you find the extinct passenger pigeon genome? Does the passenger pigeon have to be alive to have genome? A4. Mature feathers are made of keratin (a protein) and don't have DNA in them. Growing feathers have living cells and blood circulation in them. Please see: http://www.avianbiotech.com/questionsaboutfeathersexing.htm http://www.genescience.com.au/ For images: http://cas.bellarmine.edu/tietjen/images/birds.htm A discussion of sampling DNA from museum specimens: http://www.absc.usgs.gov/research/genetics/dna_sampling_protocol.htm So DNA can be obtained from non-living specimens. The quality of the DNA depends on the method of preservation (freezing is good, formaldehyde is bad). Q5. Would the Mourning Dove genome come in handy in cloning the extinct passenger pigeon? Can the genome of the Mourning Dove fill in any of the missing parts of the passenger pigeon genome? Would you need some of the Mourning Dove DNA to help clone the extinct passenger pigeon? A5. If you couldn't get the complete genomic sequence of the passenger pigeon from museum specimens, you might be able to get away with filling in with Mourning Dove sequence. Michael Crichton proposed this in "Jurassic Park," filling in gaps in dinosaur sequence with frog or reptile sequence. The problem is, you might have a bit of sequence that was very important to the passenger pigeon and was not like any sequence in the Mourning Dove. From your additional message sent separately: Q6. I know that DNA is found in bird bones. If there is DNA in feathers what would the DNA in the feathers be used for? Is DNA found in the birds legs? Is DNA found in the birds beak also? In cloning birds or just knowing where the DNA is found in birds? A6. DNA is found in all of the cells of a bird. Mature feathers and the beak are not made of cells, and therefore wouldn't have nuclei or DNA. The bird's legs have muscle, skin, blood vessels, skin and other cellular tissue, so they would have DNA. Q7. Does a skin of an extinct passenger pigeon considered to be DNA or dead DNA? A7. DNA is neither alive nor dead. DNA from a dead animal that was poorly preserved is chemically degraded and can't be fully replicated (copied) using molecular biology techniques. Please see our glossary: http://www.informatics.jax.org/mgihome/other/glossary.shtml Yours, Paul Szauter Mouse Genome Informatics
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