Tympanuchus_cupido_-Illinois,_USA_-male_displaying-8_(1)A male Greater Prairie Chicken displaying at a lek in Illinois.

Heath Hen Revival Project

In the summer of 2014, Revive & Restore met with the Martha’s Vineyard community to discuss bringing back the extinct heath hen, and a cadre of founding funders was established to explore the first steps of the heath hen revival. Thanks to their donations, Phase 1 of the de-extinction project was launched, with Revive & Restore organizing the scientific work needed to sequence and analyze the genomes of a select sample of Heath Hens and Prairie Chickens. When Phase 1 started, the notion of Heath Hen de-extinction was an uncertainty – our goal was simply to explore whether or not the Heath Hen might be an interesting candidate for de-extinction. Because the data proved the distinctiveness of the species (no longer a subspecies by our data!), Revive & Restore was able to move forward.

Phase 2 of Heath Hen research (pursuing de-extinction) officially began in Spring 2016.

Heath Hen Founding Funders

Revive & Restore would like to thank the following Heath Hen Founding Funders.

  • Warren Adams
  • G. Kenneth Baum and Ann Baum Philanthropic Fund
  • Lauren and John Driscoll
  • The Betsy and Jesse Fink Foundation
  • Julie and Robin Graham
  • Pamela Kohlberg and Curt Greer
  • Gwen and Peter Norton
  • Brad Palmer

Phases of Heath Hen De-Extinction

  • Phase 1: Genome Research
  • Phase 2: Revival
  • Phase 3: Restoration

Phase 1 Highlights

  • DNA Extractions & Sequencing Preparations
  • MiSeq and HiSeq sequencing
  • Mitochondrial Genome Analysis
  • Reference Genome
  • Results showed the Heath Hen was a unique species, making it the premiere bird for de-extinction!

The key goal of Phase 1 was achieved in the summer of 2016. Project scientists have conducted complete genomic studies of both the Heath Hen and its closest living relative, the Greater Prairie Chicken. Through this process, we discovered that the extinct Heath Hen was a unique species among its relatives. That uniqueness adds to the significance of its potential revival. The team is now cataloging and analyzing the genomic traits that made the Heath Hen unique. (See Progress to Date for more details.)

Learn how to get involved!