A team of researchers from Harvard University is close to reviving an extinct bird after recreating a near-complete genome of the little bush moa: a flightless bird native to New Zealand that was wiped out in the 13th century due to overhunting.
Using a similar technique to that used in Michael Crichton's Jurassic Park book and its Hollywood adaptation, the scientists extracted little bush moa DNA from a toe bone at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto (via Statnews).
The moa is a relative of the ostrich, emu and kiwi, and in total there were nine species of them.
The little bush moa was the most common species, and could be found in the forests of the North and South Islands of New Zealand before being hunted to extinction by settling polynesians.
They were around four feet tall and weighed roughly 66 pounds.
"High throughput sequencing has revolutionised the field of ancient DNA (aDNA) by facilitating recovery of nuclear DNA for greater inference of evolutionary processes of extinct species than is possible from mitochondrial DNA alone," according to the study.
The development could make it possible to bring back other extinct birds, given bird genomes have similar structures making it easier to reconstruct them.
"The fact that they could get a genome from a little bush moa toe is a big deal, since now we might be able to use their data to do other extinct bird species," Ben Novak, lead scientist at conservation group Revive and Restore said.
A debate still rages however, over whether bringing back extinct species is ethical.
In a statement, University of Queensland scientist Hugh Possingham said: "De-extinction could be useful for inspiring new science and could be beneficial for conservation if we ensure it doesn't reduce existing conservation resources.
"However, in general it is best if we focus on the many species that need our help now."