Scientists In Spain Plan To Clone The Bucardo, An Extinct Mountain Goat

By Josh Lieberman on November 24, 2013 8:20 PM EST

ibex
Scientists will try to clone the bucardo, or Pyrenean ibex, a species that extinct in 2000. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Scientists in Spain will try to clone a bucardo, an ibex that went extinct in 2000. The scientists will attempt the feat using bucardo cells frozen in liquid nitrogen 14 years ago. Those cells came from Celia, the last living bucardo, and were used in 2003 to clone a bucardo calf. The calf died of lung failure ten minutes after its birth, but it marked the first "de-extinction" in history.  

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Alberto Fernandez-Arias, the head of the Aragon Hunting, Fishing and Wetlands Service and one of the scientists working on cloning the bucardo, said that the first objective of the project is to see whether Celia's cells are still usable.     

"At this moment, we are not initiating a 'bucardo recovery plan,' we only want to know if Celia's cells are still alive after having been maintained frozen during 14 years in liquid nitrogen," Fernandez-Arias told the BBC

They'll test Celia's cells in vitro. If the cells are usable, the scientists will then try to clone bucardo embryos for implantation in goats. 

"In this process, one or more live female bucardo clones could be obtained. If that is the case, the feasibility of a bucardo recovery plan will be discussed," said Fernandez-Arias.

Successfully cloning a bucardo would only be the first step towards de-exctincting the species. In order create more than just one or two cloned bucardos, scientists would likely have to take a cloned bucardo--a female one, since they only have female Celia's cells--and pair it with another ibex species, like Capra pyreaica. Then a full-scale bucardo resurrection could be underway. 

Endemic to the Iberian Peninsula, the bucardo went extinct after being hunted for centuries. By 1989, there were only about a dozen bucardos left; by 1999, there was only a single bucardo left: Celia. A wildlife team caught Celia and put a tracking device around her neck, then released her back into the wild. In 2000, a tree fell on Celia, killing her--and her species.   

But even though scientists may be able to bring back the bucardo, they'll still never be able bring back dinosaurs. And that's really too bad.   

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