Ignoring Decades Of Cinema, Scientists Are Cloning The Wooly Mammoth.
Russian and South Korean scientists say they’re positive that the long-gone wooly mammoth can be cloned by 2015. We won’t bother with the obligatory Jurassic Park references (headline took care of that!) and ethical warnings, because everyone knows damn well they want to see extinct animals brought back to life, even if it guarantees an eventual bloodbath.
The wooly mammoth became extinct about 10,000 years ago, due to a combination of climate change and human hunting. Some of these dead, prehistoric beasts have been discovered buried beneath the Siberian permafrost, which, in several cases, has preserved their biological tissue remarkably well. Researchers have long been looking for a specimen with intact DNA, and last year they struck gold, unearthing a femur bone containing whole blood cells and lots of yummy chromosomes. The task now is to take the nucleus from one of these blood cells and insert it into an African elephant embryo, which would then be implanted into the womb of a female elephant. Since mammoths and modern elephants are very closely related, the team is hopeful the fetus will gestate to term, roughly 640 days. This technique is very similar to the way we clone extant animals such as sheep and cats.
Mammoths have been discovered buried beneath the Siberian permafrost.
While it may sound much more exciting to clone a T-rex or Velociraptor (as proven in various movies), that may never be possible. These mammoths haven’t fossilized; they’re frozen. Fossils have little or no intact DNA, and the idea of extracting dinosaur blood cells from Mesozoic-era mosquitoes preserved in amber hasn’t exactly panned out as Michael Crichton suggested. Plus, aside from birds, which have continued to evolve for tens of millions of years, there are no dinosaur descendants or close relatives to supply an egg. Even if we had dino DNA, we don’t have the technology to turn it into an animal. But there’s always hope because — let’s say it together — “Life Finds a Way™!”
For now, at least, we may have to settle for a boring old wooly mammoth stampede in downtown San Diego.