The Mammoth reigned supreme as the largest mammal that walked the face of the earth a few millenniums ago. This was as recently as 4,500 years ago, and just like that, they disappeared completely. The only memories that exist today of these iconic animals are to be found in museums in the form of sculptures. But luckily a few fully intact, frozen fossils have also been found raising the possibility of creating wooly clones.
Reasons for their extinction
Why they became extinct is still a hotly debated subject with scientists claiming the melting of glaciers were responsible. Animal rights groups insist it was the settling of man in areas mammoths lived that curiously coincided with their extinction. They suggest the heavy weaponry found with the ancient man was specifically made for the mammoth. The blame game continues, but what is glaringly evident is that no mammoths are around today.
De-extinction of the mammoth
Out of intrigue and trying to undo humanity’s past mistakes, two sets of scientists are looking to resurrect the wooly mammoth. The methods they are using are different, but the result should be the same if they are successful.
How they plan to do it:
The discovery of the well-preserved buried mammoth remains gave the scientists and researchers hopes of creating the mammoth once again. Intact DNA samples, which are yet to be found, obtained from those bodies will be taken to a laboratory. The genetic material from the DNA sample will then be separated and injected into a living donor and this will be in the form of the mammoth’s closest relative, the Elephant.
An egg will then be extracted from the Elephant and injected with the mammoths DNA, and then implanted into the elephant so that it plays the role of a surrogate mother.
The only problem the team from the Soaam Biotech Research Foundation, a South Korean Company face, is that good DNA has not yet been found and they are also clueless on how to extract an egg from an Elephant and inject it with mammoth DNA.
“We’re not close to finding viable material yet, but the samples are very well preserved, so that gives us hope that better examples can be consulted in the future,” said Insung Hwang, who is the project manager.
Led by George Church, a geneticist at Harvard Medical School, this team plans to use technology to actually manufacture mammoth DNA using the genome- editing technique. This method involves making custom made genes unique to the mammoth; like its wooly fur, short ears, short tail, as well as, other genetic features like the mammoths ability to thrive in cold conditions. The engineered DNA will then be spliced, which means joined/connected or interwoven with an Elephants DNA. After this process they will then plant an embryo with mammoth DNA into an Elephants womb, a process that they still have to figure out.
The process was once tried by a team of French and Spanish Scientists 13 years ago, on a species of goats which became extinct, called the Pyareese. The resulting clone was successful, but it only lived for ten minutes.
We thought we’d just make the changes that are most likely to lead to an animal that looks, behaves and is adaptable to the cold like a mammoth,” Church told Live Science.
Opposition to cloning
Animal rights and religious groups are up in arms, though about the planned cloning of the mammoth. While both agree to see the mammoth again would be ‘cool’, they say cloning is not the way to go. They argue the rights of the animal will be compromised as it will most probably be caged and used as a cash cow to recover the money used up, they also accuse scientists of trying to play God in addition to a host of other concerns.