Cloning The Woolly Mammoth
By James Donahue
The concept of cloning
plants and animals is such a new and exciting field for contemporary science, some wild ideas about just what to clone are
beginning to appear.
For example, a team of
scientists at Kinki
University in Wakayama, Japan, is seriously considering trying to bring back a real woolly mammoth after
Russian scientists found living tissue in a 20,000-year-old carcass in the frozen Siberian Tundra.
“We consider these
cells conditionally alive,” said Vladimir Repin, the leader of the Russian team that found the frozen creature. “The
inner structure of these cells is undamaged.” The cells were carefully extracted and remain in a frozen and preserved
state until the Japanese team is ready to attempt to clone the original mammoth.
The Woolly mammoth is
believed to be an ancient relative of the modern elephant that went extinct at about the time the dinosaurs also disappeared
from the face of the planet. While the elephant now is threatened with extinction, it is hard to understand why a team of
scientists in Japan would want to bring
back another beast of comparable size. Of course there is the challenge of accomplishment and the fact that such a fete would
create an oddity for a Japanese Zoo that would attract people from all over the world.
There is no place for
the woolly mammoth to run wild anymore. We humans have laid claim to just about every patch of available ground.
The scientists looking
into the project say it may take years to bring this prehistoric beast to live, if it is even possible. Dr. Yoshihiko Hosoi,
a professor of genetics at Kinki University,
says the work will first involve sequencing the genetic material to determine its genetic make-up.
Once the genome is completed,
scientists can tell if the extinct animal is closely related to modern elephants. If this is true, they hope to use an elephant
to try to incubate a cloned mammoth.
There is a kind of sadness
to this story. The elephant is a highly intelligent creature and it may be a very cruel thing to plant a hairy beast of a
child in her womb. If the mammoth clone is successful, it could be rejected by the mother because she will see that it is
not a normal child.
The beast, itself, would
be such a freak of nature it would come into a world it may not adapt to. It would be almost comparable to a human going asleep
for 20,000 years and then waking up to a world unlike anything it ever remembered. The memories locked in the DNA of the mammoth
would not be prepared for the world we have created since it went extinct.