[Science news] - Ground-breaking work on extinct plants identifies 161 species as candidates for de-extinction

Tue 20 Dec

Resurrecting extinct species is a fascinating and challenging idea for scientists and the general public. Whereas some theoretical progress has been made for animals, the resurrection of extinct plants (de-extinction sensu lato) is a relatively recently discussed topic.

A study carried out by an international group of 32 institutions including Meise Botanic Garden reports the first list of plant de-extinction candidates based on the actual availability of seeds in herbarium specimens of globally extinct plants. We reviewed globally extinct seed plants using online resources and additional literature on national red lists, resulting in a list of 361 extinct taxa. We then proposed a method of prioritizing candidates for seed-plant de-extinction from diaspores found in herbarium specimens. Finally, combining data on seed storage behaviour and longevity, as well as specimen age in the novel ‘best de-extinction candidate’ score (DEXSCO), we identified in more than 60 herbaria worldwide 556 specimens belonging to 161 extinct species with available seeds.

We expect that this list of de-extinction candidates and the novel approach to rank them will boost research efforts towards the first-ever plant de-extinction. 

This study is published in the prestigious journal Nature Plants: http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41477-022-01296-7