The Extinct Species That Was Brought Back to Life

Andrei Tapalaga

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A rare photo of Bucardo was taken in the early 90sWikimedia Commons/ Public Domain

The Pyrenees mountains located in Europe have seen many animal species go extinct in previous years and strangely enough this is not necessarily due to humans inhabiting the location or them being hunted down. The Bucardo is one of the last species to go extinct in this area, but also the first species to be brought back to life from extinction. Even if, unfortunately for a short period of time.

This sub-species of the mountain goat was famously known for its very large horns which were spread like the devil’s horns. Another interesting aspect of this sub-species was that it loved to stay on top of mountains, explaining the extra thick fur compared to other species. According to cave paintings found near the Pyrennes mountains, the bucardo ruled this part of the world many thousands of years ago.

At the end of the 19th century, only 50 specimens were left alive. The last time this species reproduced, according to historical records was in 1987, a period when only 14 specimens were found alive. The last bucardos lived in the Monte Perdido massif, on a very cold and extremely steep slope, between large rocky cliffs at an altitude of between 3,280 to 7,217 feet.

The last male Bucardo died in 1990 of natural causes. In 1992 a project was started to start breeding Burcados in order to repopulate them and balance the ecosystem within the area. With no males left, it was a difficult job. Biologists tried to use the last two remaining females at the time and breed them with a different species of the mountain goat.

Many attempts followed, but all failed. Due to the lack of positive results, the last female and last specimen were captured in 1999 to obtain biological samples in case she died. At the same time, the biologists who collected the biological samples had put a radio collar around her neck so they could keep a record of the last live specimen. They even named her Celia.

In late January 2000, the last specimen had died crushed by a tree.

José Folch led a Franco-Spanish team that attempted to bring the bucardo, as a species, back from the dead. During that time and with the technology as well as knowledge available, this was no easy task, but not impossible.

They injected the nuclei from the cells of the last female Bucardo, into goat eggs that had been emptied of their DNA, then implanted 57 of them into different goat surrogate mothers. Of the 57 goats, only 7 got impregnated and 6 of them had a miscarriage, leaving the team with only one goat that carried the clone of a Bucardo.

On July 30, 2003, the scientists performed a cesarean section. After the clone had been born, she died 10 minutes later due to complications, A necropsy revealed that one of her lungs had grown an extra lobe which did not allow the newborn to breathe properly.

Carl Zimmer once wrote an article about the whole procedure, giving fine detail about the procedure. He has also written that this is the closest Science has come to de-extinct a species.

“As Fernández-Arias held the newborn bucardo in his arms, he could see that she was struggling to take in air, her tongue jutting grotesquely out of her mouth. Despite the efforts to help her breathe, after a mere ten minutes Celia’s clone died. A necropsy later revealed that one of her lungs had grown a gigantic extra lobe as solid as a piece of liver. There was nothing anyone could have done.” (Quote by Carl Zimmer)

The Bucardo was brought back to life for 10 minutes, in the hopes that one day it will be brought back for good. Although the technology and knowledge within this specific field of Biology have advanced a lot, there is a lot of controversy behind the ethics of such work which creates barriers for future scientific experiments to bring extinct species back to life.

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