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 once they get the technique perfected are beginning to appear.
For example, a team of scientists at Kinki University in Wakayama, Japan, and
Russia’s Sakha Republic’s mammoth museum plan to begin research next year in an attempt to resurrect the woolly
mammoth. They will be attempting to clone
the beast from well-preserved 20,000 year-old bone marrow recovered in the Siberian permafrost.
“We consider these cells conditionally alive,” said Vladimir Repin, the leader
of the Russian team that found the frozen carcass. “The inner structure of these cells is undamaged.” The cells
were carefully extracted and remain in a frozen and preserved state until the two teams are ready to attempt to clone the
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 perhaps 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 life, 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.
The plan would be to replace the nuclei of egg cells from an elephant with those
taken from the mammoth’s marrow cells, and thus produce embryos with mammoth DNA.
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 offspring.
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 created since it went