The idea of resurrecting extinct animals moved a step closer to reality last year when scientists announced that they had decoded almost all of the genome of the woolly mammoth, from 60,000-year-old remains found frozen in Siberia.
Now New Scientist magazine has named the 10 other beasts most likely to rise again, including the Irish elk deer whose antlers measured 12 feet across, the dodo and Neanderthal man.
Animals that died out thousands of years ago could be recreated using genetic information retrieved from well-preserved specimens recovered from permafrost, dark caves or dry desserts.
There is no chance of bringing back the dinosaurs because genetic information is unlikely to survive more than a million years in any environment.
But scientists have just announced they had “resurrected” a gene from the Tasmanian tiger by implanting it in a mouse and examined its function – the first time such a feat had been achieved.
The genomes of several extinct species besides the mammoth are already being sequenced.
To revive a long-dead species scientists would have to recover enough DNA from a well-preserved specimen and find a suitable surrogate species similar to that of the extinct animal in which to grow the new baby from an embryo.
“It’s hard to say that something will never ever be possible,”said Svante Pääbo of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, who is sequencing the Neanderthal genome.
“But it would require technologies so far removed from what we currently have that I cannot imagine how it would be done.”