Cover image for Bring back the king : the new science of de-extinction / Helen Pilcher.
Bring back the king : the new science of de-extinction / Helen Pilcher.

Publication Information:
London ; New York, NY : Bloomsbury Sigma, 2016.

Physical Description:
304 pages : illustrations ; 23 cm.
Introduction: Bringin' it back -- King of the dinosaurs -- King of the cavemen -- King of the Ice Age -- King of the birds -- King of Down Under -- King of Rock 'n' Roll -- Blue Christmas -- I just can't help believing -- New you see it ... -- P.S. -- Key references : a little less conversation, a little more reading.
If you could bring back just one animal from the past, what would you choose? It can be anyone or anything from history, from the King of the Dinosaurs, T. rex, to the King of Rock 'n' Roll, Elvis Presley, and beyond. De-extinction - the ability to bring extinct species back to life - is fast becoming reality. Around the globe, scientists are trying to de-extinct all manner of animals, including the woolly mammoth, the passenger pigeon and a bizarre species of flatulent frog. But de-extinction is more than just bringing back the dead. It's a science that can be used to save species, shape evolution and sculpt the future of life on our planet. In Bring Back the King, scientist and comedy writer Helen Pilcher goes on a quest to identify the perfect de-extinction candidate. Along the way, she asks if Elvis could be recreated from the DNA inside a pickled wart, investigates whether it's possible to raise a pet dodo, and considers the odds of a 21st century Neanderthal turning heads on public transport. Pondering the practicalities and the point of de-extinction, Bring Back the King is a witty and wry exploration of what is bound to become one of the hottest topics in conservation - if not in science as a whole - in the years to come.


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Helen Pilcher is uniquely qualified to explain the cutting-edge science that makes the resurrection of extinct animals a very real possibility, while acknowledging the serious and humorous aspects of giving a deceased animal a second chance to live. If you could bring back to life a person or animal, what would you choose? Pilcher highlights her own choices from eras gone, including the King of the Dinosaurs, Tyrannosaurus rex , and the King of Rock 'n' Roll, Elvis Presley.

From dinosaurs to dodos and Neanderthals, Bring Back the King reveals how the burgeoning field of DNA science is being used to help resurrect individual animals (did your beloved Fido die before siring offspring?) and entire species from their stony graves. Pilcher describes current initiatives and future plans to restore deceased animals, and uses both science and willful irreverence to assess the ramifications of how these genetic Lazaruses might fare in their brave new world. Could a pet dinosaur be trained to roll over? Would Neanderthals enjoy opera? Could a returning dodo seek vengeance upon humanity?

Blending the very latest de-extinction technology with cloning, and hard-core popular science with levity, Bring Back the King will generate a lot of thoughtful discussion and a chuckle or two.

Author Notes

Helen Pilcher is a professional science writer with a Ph.D. in stem-cell biology. A former journalist for Nature online, she also worked as a senior scientist for a biotechnology company, engineering a series of human stem-cell lines for transplantation into damaged human brains. She is also a stand-up comedian who has performed at the Edinburgh Comedy Festival and in clubs across Britain. She lives in Warwickshire, UK.

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

Pilcher, a British science journalist and comedian, details how scientists are using the latest advances in molecular genetics and reproductive biology to explore possibilities in the realm of de-extinction. Though de-extinction isn't an established scientific field-at least not yet-Pilcher reveals that researchers are finding ways to re-create genomes of extinct species and figuring out how to turn such genomes into living, breathing organisms. They're also attempting to increase the reproductive capacity of endangered species that are not yet extinct. In accessible prose, Pilcher describes many of those techniques as well as the passion of those involved in these efforts. She also explores the current technical limitations and explains why we will likely never be able to bring back extinct species of dinosaurs and the vast majority of species that have been lost. Pilcher presents an insightful discussion of the ethical and ecological reasons why it might not make sense to do so even if we could. Whether she's dealing with wooly mammoths, peculiar Australian frogs, Neanderthals, or Elvis Presley, she asks provocative questions about both the nature of science and what it means to be human. Pilcher uses humor effectively to keep readers engaged, and there is a great deal here to entertain and educate them. (Jan.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Library Journal Review

Can science use genetic engineering to resurrect extinct species, and should it even try? Science writer Pilcher (, formerly Nature) answers with delightfully comprehensible prose. Pilcher traces how scientists recover ancient DNA, map and edit genomes, and clone animals. Though the explanations feel feather-light, the nontechnical language occasionally slips into sloppiness. The author does not call the Cretaceous/Tertiary (Paleogene) Extinction by name and labels 80-million-year-old fossils Jurassic rather than Cretaceous. Digressions about her own pregnancy and Elvis kitsch add little, while the ethical arguments are sometimes inconsistent or incomplete. Pilcher mentions deextinction's possible ecological consequences but advocates disrupting an established ecosystem to transform arctic tundra into grassland. She lauds zoo veterinarian Thomas Hildebrandt for harvesting ova from rhinos yet opposes creating a similar technique for elephants. And she dismisses human cloning with a few authorities' pronouncements, even though the procedure has advocates and is not banned in the United States. This title competes with M.R. O'Connor's Resurrection Science, Ed Regis and George M. Church's Regenesis, and Beth Shapiro's How To Clone a Mammoth. VERDICT Sadly, this extremely nontechnical approach to genetic manipulation's wonders fails to stand out in a crowded field.-Eileen H. Kramer, Georgia Perimeter Coll. Lib., Clarkston © Copyright 2016. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

Prefacep. 8
Introduction: Bringin' It Backp. 11
Chapter 1 King of the Dinosaursp. 33
Chapter 2 King of the Cavemenp. 65
Chapter 3 King of the Ice Agep. 95
Chapter 4 King of the Birdsp. 125
Chapter 5 King of Down Underp. 151
Chapter 6 King of Rock 'n Rollp. 179
Chapter 7 Blue Christmasp. 211
Chapter 8 I Just Can't Help Believingp. 233
Chapter 9 Now You See It ...p. 251
P.S.p. 281
Key References: A Little Less Conversation, a Little More Readingp. 283
Acknowledgementsp. 292
Indexp. 296

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