Warehouse B
Should They Do It?
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Cloning The Woolly Mammoth


By James Donahue

October 2006


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.