The Mammoth Cometh

Thursday, February 27th, 2014

The New York Times Magazine piece is titled The Mammoth Cometh, but it’s more about the potential de-extinction of the passenger pigeon.

One mistake caught my eye:

The biologists would next introduce these living cells into a band-tailed-pigeon embryo. No hocus-pocus is involved here: You chop off the top of a pigeon egg, inject the passenger-pigeon cells inside and cover the hole with a material that looks like Saran wrap. The genetically engineered germ cells integrate into the embryo; into its gonads, to be specific. When the chick hatches, it should look and act like a band-tailed pigeon. But it will have a secret. If it is a male, it carries passenger-pigeon sperm; if it is a female, its eggs are passenger-pigeon eggs. These creatures — band-tailed pigeons on the outside and passenger pigeons on the inside — are called “chimeras” (from the Middle English for “wild fantasy”). Chimeras would be bred with one another in an effort to produce passenger pigeons. Novak hopes to observe the birth of his first passenger-pigeon chick by 2020, though he suspects 2025 is more likely.

Chimera is the name of an ancient Greek mythological beast — part lion, part goat, part serpent. (And all fire-breather.)


  1. The Republic says:

    Let us make an image of the soul, that he may have his own words presented before his eyes.

    Of what sort?

    An ideal image of the soul, like the composite creations of ancient mythology, such as the Chimera or Scylla or Cerberus, and there are many others in which two or more different natures are said to grow into one.

    There are said of have been such unions.

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