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The Q&A Hole: What Extinct Animal Would You Bring Back To Life?

With Matt Oztalay, Peter-John Byrnes, Wiley Wiggins, and more
Wayne Alan Brenner, 11:31am, Mon. Feb. 11, 2013
Our Weekly Series Continues
Ah, yeah, we should've realized that some form of dinosaur would be far and away the most popular creature here …

But, even then, there's dinosaurs and there's dinosaurs

Matt Oztalay, game developer, starts us off with a classic:

"I would want to bring back the Tyrannosaurus Rex. One of the things I lamented as a child is that we couldn't determine the appearance of these massive creatures down to their skin, scales, etc. Some scientists have even posited that T. Rex was covered in feathers, and I'd very much like to put that question to rest. Of course, what to do with it once we've answered those questions, I can't really say. I think Steven Spielberg had a pretty good plan, right?"

And comedian Peter-John Byrnes agrees, but adds a certain insistence vis-a-vis style:

"Of course the one species you bring back to life is a dinosaur – that goes without saying. Anyone who picked an animal who wasn't a dinosaur either misunderstood the question or would like to change their answer now. And I choose Tyrannosaurus Rex. I know it's not obscure or exciting, but if you're going to bring back one, just one, then this is not the time to show off your knowledge by picking an indie dinosaur. If you have to pick one James Bond, it's Sean Connery. If you have to pick one classic muscle car, it's the Mustang. And if you have to pick one dinosaur to bring back to life, it's the T. Rex."

Such putative restrictions, however, don't mean shit to the likes of Wiley Wiggins of Fantastic Arcade:

"When I eventually learn the angelic tongue so long sought after by the sophists, alchemists, and quacks of old (and thereby enter into reality's secret "cheat" mode), one of the first things I'll do with my terrifying god-powers is restore Spinosaurus to its rightful place at the top of the food chain. Why would I unleash this kind of havoc on an unsuspecting mankind? It's for their own damn good. The lack of a godzilla-style megacarnivore is at the root of man's imagining himself positioned somewhere in the center of the universe, and his obsession with his own collective navel. A cruel wakeup at tooth-point of this 60-foot-long, nine-ton beastie is just what the doctor ordered. Sure, I could have picked a more pedestrian meat-lover like the T-Rex, but Spinosaurus, besides being larger, has more panache."

Meanwhile, Angeliska Polacheck of Vintage Vivant is making sure the oceans are well-covered … or terrorized:

"I'd like to revive the unicorns, because I'm pretty sure they really did exist – but in lieu of that, I'd have to go with prehistoric sharks, especially the Megalodon! I find giant sharks extremely exciting, and as a child I'd research everything I could get my hands on about sharks, and stare transfixed at the images of people standing inside the gaping jaws of an extinct behemoth. I'm also really fascinated by the Helicoprion, or "Spiral Saw" shark, that had a weird spiral jaw with teeth arranged in a fantastic "tooth-whorl" reminiscent of a circular saw. If I had to choose between the two, I guess I'd go with Megalodon, because Jaws is one of my favorite movies, and I love the idea of a shark that could eat dinosaurs whole."

And, from our other respondents:

Bryan "Lubu" Roberts of Ghetto Sketch Warlock: The Dodo. I feel like I missed out on the Dodo. And they just got a really shitty deal. Your species became extinct because you were friendly? That's not cool.

David Moses Fruchter of Slappy Pinchbottom's Odd Preoccupation: The Woolly Mammoth – because that's the one my sweetheart would want to bring back. When I asked her why, she said, as if it were so obvious she couldn't believe I was asking, "Because they were so big? And fuzzy? And you know I love elephants. Woolly mammoths are like elephants, but more so!"

Kevin McNamee-Tweed, artist: T-Rex. That was my first thought. I used to, as a kid, strain my eyes into delirium – way past gazing, even beyond that transcendental daze achieved by a really good stare – until I could readjust the scale of whatever I was looking at, and then I would place a massive, imagined dinosaur beside pine trees or stepping over a store. I don't think I do want to bring back any dinosaurs, because I bet humanity would make their existence terrible, but it would be hard to resist bringing back a T-Rex to see it step on my car.

Beth Burns of The Hidden Room: The lucky species I’ll be bringing back from extinction is – drumroll, please – the American Passenger Pigeon! Those little guys used to be so plentiful that the trees were full to breaking with them. They were the most abundant bird of any species anywhere, not just here in the U.S. Early settlers said the pigeons would block out the sun in flocks “beyond number or imagination.” In a couple of hundred years of colonization, we wiped them out using nets, guns, whatever – just killed them all. So that would probably be the kindest thing to do, bring the old American Passenger Pigeon back from the dead, if for no other reason than to say, “sorry we were such dicks to you guys.” If their numbers get out of control again, we can assume from history that it's actually not that hard of a problem to fix. Plus the pilgrims say they’re delicious.

Laura Thoms of Red Press Printing: Okay, after much thought – Dinosaurs! Giant sharks! Miniature horses! – I gotta go with this guy because I love him: The Tasmanian Tiger, or thylacine. He ended his days the same way I often fear for myself – performing in circus sideshows. He's closely related to the kangaroo, so he can hop on his hind legs; he has stripes like a tiger; both male & female have pouches (the male's pouch is to protect the scrotal sac from prickly underbrush). They have a jaw that can open really wide for swallowing big mouthfuls of prey. They are nocturnal & crepuscular hunters and rumored to be blood drinkers. I would bring the thylacine back because 1) Fucking cool & beautiful animal, duh; 2) He inspires a sort of Bigfoot level of obsession in Australia; 3) To stop this totally insane Australian scientist Mike Archer from actually starting Jurassic Park – because he's trying to make a thylacine clone from preserved genetic material; 4) "Although too feeble to attack man, it commits sad havoc among the smaller quadrupeds of the country;" 5) His "yip yap" call and "threat yawn" are perfectly suited to these modern times; and because, 6)

The bewilderment will diminish like an echo
Winding along your inner mountains
Unheard by us

And find its way out
Leaving behind it the future
Dead
And ours


When you will not see again
The whale calves trying the light
Consider what you will find in the black garden

And its court
The sea cows the Great Auks the gorillas
The irreplaceable hosts ranged countless
And fore-ordaining as stars
Our sacrifices
Join your work to theirs
Tell him
That it is we who are important

W. S. Merwin, from For a Coming Extinction

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