When we think of cloning, most of us think of human cloning for medical purposes or animals like Dolly the sheep cloned in Britain in the late 1990s. But we’re going to have to change our perceptions of the creation of genetically identical entities after shocking news emerged from South America this week. Brazilian scientists have, for the very first time, managed to clone a species that’s long been extinct. A prehistoric owl known as the ‘Ornimegalonyx’. But after a successful cloning process over some years, the owls created were hugely unstable and aggressive. In the end, one of the scientists working on the project was attacked and lost both his eyes.
Ornimegalonyx were the biggest owls ever, measuring in at almost four feet tall. They were so large and heavy that they were virtually flightless, something which has proved useful in this disastrous cloning experiment, as Brazilian authorities have ordered that the litter of cloned owls be terminated immediately. There can be no flying away.
Most of the cloning on the project over the past few years has been carried out in restricted labs and by scientists and researchers who have signed non-disclosure agreements due to the highly sensitive nature of the work. Many lobbyists and animal welfare groups have argued the ethics of cloning an extinct species.
The work started back in 2007 when scientists discovered a fossil of the extinct bird in the Serra do Mar area of Southeastern Brazil and extracted DNA for study. Within just seven years, they would have fully cloned the Ornimegalonyx.
The project was going smoothly and the team were planning a PR Drive and working out the best way to announce the news when tragedy struck. Dr. Brian Christopher from the Fogarty International Center was making a routine inspection when he was rushed by a particularly aggressive bird who flew right into his face. With his claws out, it swooped for Christopher. Its feet on either shoulder, claws digging in, the bird viciously gouged out the scientist’s eyes.
Brazilian authorities are further investigating the incident and are preparing a case for the prosecution as you read this. As we know more, we will update you on this fascinating story.