All gone: How erasing billions of birds shocked us

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Associated Press

Posted on June 18, 2014 at 12:00 PM

Updated Wednesday, Jun 18 at 12:00 PM

WASHINGTON (AP) — With one death a century ago humanity learned we had the awesome power to erase an entire species in the scientific equivalent of a blink of an eye: The passenger pigeon went from billions of birds to extinct before our very eyes.

The bird was named Martha. She was grey and brown, with red eyes. And in 1914 she died, making the passenger pigeon extinct.

Now Martha's back, in a way. Her story and the stories of other extinctions are being told in a Smithsonian Institution exhibit opening later this month. A scientific study this week shows how the passenger pigeon population fluctuated until humans killed them off. And geneticists are working on a longshot — to try to revive the passenger pigeon from DNA in stuffed birds.

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