“Extinction is essentially a one-way street. Or is it?”
Though the closest scientists have come so far to bringing back an extinct species is a newborn bucardo—a kind of mountain goat—that lived for just 10 minutes, Hirsch offers strong evidence that it’s only a matter of time before we could be sharing the planet with passenger pigeons, Tasmanian tigers, and even mammoths (but not, probably, dinosaurs) once again. Although she stirs in accounts of extinctions both ancient and modern, along with stories of success and of failure in saving critically endangered species, her descriptions of how genetic material is preserved, reconstructed from scattered fragments, edited, and transferred to create clones, genetically modified organisms, and new creatures comes out as a dry if relentlessly informative mix. Frequent photos and diagrams add visual enhancements to this overview; arguments from some conservationists that “de-extinction” is a waste of resources that could be more worthily spent in saving endangered species add ethical balance; and weighty quantities of source notes and leads to further information at the end add considerable research value.
A staid but intellectually stimulating excursion across one of modern biology’s most promising, and controversial, frontiers. (glossary, index) (Nonfiction. 11-15)