Sunday, April 01, 2012

Great Auk Clones to be Hatched on Fair Isle! Extinct no More?

The Witch of St. Kilda - 1840
There are no written or audio records of the call or sound of the Great Auk...
 I can only wonder if it sounded like a snickering, laughing or screaming witch?

Cloning the Great Auk

 The DNA sequencing is only a small part in successful cloning of the once extinct Great Auk said Dr. April J. First of Oxford, who is collaborating with the Scottish & Canadian cloners. Samples from birds in museum collections from around the world have been gathered to get a diverse gene pool. A huge effort was under taken to hatch a Great Auk in the lab and the plan is now to go wild! After years of work, a combined effort of scientists from the UK & Canada is culminating this Spring on Fair Isle. Next week a 2-person team will arrive on the isle to surgically implant cloned embryonic DNA into about 12 of our local Razorbill population. They are bringing with them a portable lab/surgery that fits in 2 backpack units-- as they plan to work on site at the rocky beaches and low cliff edges.  The Razorbills will hopefully lay an egg to be hatched & reared in the wild, much like the nest parasite Cuckoo who leaves a egg for a smaller bird to feed. I personally can't wait to see the "new" Great Auk, but I also know Razorbills are having a hard time fledging their own young. I'm told that the nest will be monitored and helped if needed. Fair Isle was picked for it's location, no egg sucking rodents & infrastructure, plus, limited "Auk gawk" as she referred. I myself hope to be a "Auk Gawker" soon but the nesting site is at the bottom of the cliffs at Easter Loder and that is sure to cut down the foot traffic. Intrigued I had a look online at some of the history and science of the cloning of the Great Auk and have provided some links if you are interested? 
The Great Auk is large and flightless seabird, it was also known as a penguin and garefowl and was hunted to extinction for its oil, feathers and eggs. The seabird was a familiar sight to sailors and islanders in the North Atlantic until the mid 1800s. In Scotland, the last one was thought to have been caught and killed on the remote island archipelago of St Kilda. According to the National Trust for Scotland (the owners of St Kilda), it occasionally visited the island group. Scots writer Martin. Martin wrote of seeing the bird there in his book A Late Voyage to St Kilda 1698 referring to the bird as a Witch.
St. Kilda boast the last recorded sighting of a Great Auk in the British Isles.
It was made in 1840, when islanders on Stac an Armin suspected it was a witch and the cause of a tremendous storm. The last breeding pair are believed to have been spotted (and promptly killed) in 1844 by sailors on a rocky outcrop on the island of Eldey off IcelandAnd the last recorded sighting was in Newfoundland, Canada, in 1852.

Pioneering ornithologist Dr. Eagle Clark (1912) refers to a statement in Baikie and Hedle's Historia Naturis Orcadensis (1848) that one was seen off Fair Isle in June 1798. The Great Auk was still known to breed at Papa Westray, about 40 miles away at the time. I can not find this book but would like to see if it has any other Fair Isle bird info?

More great Great Auk info & History:

a bit of the Science publish in the Oxford Journals:

Fig. 1.—Organization and sequence characteristics of great auk mtDNA. a, Schematic representation of a 4,258-bp mtDNA region in great auk. The length of each gene is indicated, and lengths of the intergenic spacers are given below the gene junctions. For designation of tRNAs the corresponding three-letter amino acid code is used. A representation of the control region with conserved boxes F, D, C, and conserved sequence block I (CSB I) is given below. The heteroplasmic tandem repeat (HTR) region and a possible TAS are indicated. b, Multiple sequence alignment of the 3′ end of the control region showing the position and sequence motifs of HTRs in CR III of six alcid species. Dashes represent gaps. HTR sequence motifs are shown in brackets, and n designates the variable number of repeats found within single individuals, a condition known as heteroplasmy. The 3′ end of the CR is indicated

Great Auk - Museum of Natural History - London

Since 2002 Scientists at the Royal Ontario Museum have been slowly but successfully piecing together the genetic blueprint of the Great Auk from the scattered remains of a bird whose extinction at the hand of man in the first half of the 19th century has made it the tragic figure of Canadian nature.
In a project aimed at tracing the Great Auk's evolutionary history and establishing its relationship to several living species of birds, the researchers are also taking the first steps toward a tantalizing possibility: the complete mapping of an extinct animal's genome and its resurrection through cloning
Razorbill parents of a cloned Great Auk chick.

As a human I have always been ashamed of this type of mass extinction.
I wish that I could say the Great Auk flies again! even though it never could...
If you have not figured it out yet...

April Fools!
The above links I found by google and are real as far as I know? 
Dr. April J. First says cloning gone wild will have to wait a few years...


Here is a great video of the history of the Great Auk... no foolin'

Have a Great Auk Day!


  1. Sounds like a tall story to me - could it be 1st April today?

  2. I so wish it could be true. One day, perhaps.

  3. All that cloning for nothing! Great Auk alive on remote island of the Faeroe's...

  4. I saw one of these a couple of years ago...

  5. i feel bad that its extinct when i was looking in the dictonary it talked about the great auk.i thought it would really work.

  6. the great auk is cthe auks are so cute1

  7. you like auks well then when we clone mammoths and auks i will try to find them i love them
    and thylacines are rediscovered theres sightings!

  8. Well, I'll be buggered, got to the April bit, --what a let down

  9. I have know that farne island has a mass population of great auks just discovered

    1. this guy is true ive been there and seen them

  10. great auks are the best of the seabirds!

  11. I had a feeling of hope which then turned to sadness and then thought soon I will have this same sadness about many other familiar creatures if we don't change our ways soon.
    So maybe this joke will help prompt some people to action at least in the small ways that they are able to act.

  12. This looks like an authentic great auk sighting. Doesn't appear to be a fake or photoshopped.

  13. In my opinion I think this is very bad taste. It's a disgrace to our species that we subjected this beautiful bird to countless horrors and ultimately extinction. To then make it the subject of an April Fools is deplorable.

    1. I agree with you; that bird was favored and was a spiritual bird to my tribe; I was really hoping that it was true and succesful with even a clone. For that person to makeup a joke, is more than distasteful but a complete piece of garbage

  14. i hope scientists can successfully clone the auks, and other extinct animals too! that would be so rad!