Scientists a step closer to "bringing back" mammoths At left, Eleftheria Palkopoulou inspects a woolly mammoth tusk (AP photo / Thinkstock)
Scientists a step closer to "bringing back" mammoths
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Scientists are getting their best look yet at the DNA code for the woolly mammoth, work that could be a step toward bringing back the extinct beast.

Researchers deciphered the complete DNA code, or genomes, of two mammoths. The new genomes are far more refined than a previous one announced, in 2008. DNA determines what traits a living organism will have.

One new genome comes from a mammoth that lived about 45,000 years ago in northeastern Siberia. The other comes from a creature that lived about 4,300 years ago on Russia's Wrangel Island in the Arctic Circle.

The results were announced in a paper released by the journal Current Biology. The DNA was extracted from a tooth and a sample of soft tissue.

Woolly mammoths were about as big as modern African elephants and they sport long curved tusks and thick hairy coats. They are the best-known species of mammoth. The information comes from frozen and often well-preserved carcasses in Siberia.

The Wrangel Island population was the last of the creatures to go extinct. Some scientists have suggested that mammoths could be created anew through genetic engineering, an idea not everybody favors.

Love Dalen of the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, an author of the new study, said re-creating mammoths is not a goal of his research team and he's also "very uncertain" that it's even possible.

Still, he wrote in an email, "Our genomes bring us one critical step closer to re-creating a mammoth .... I think it would be cool if it could be done, but I'm not sure it should be done."

One ethical drawback, he said, is that elephants would be used as surrogate mothers to carry the genetically engineered mammoth embryos. That species mismatch might lead to problems that cause the mothers to suffer, he said.

Hendrik Poinar of Canada's McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, who is another author of the study, said the new work "gives us at least a blueprint to work from."

Poinar said mammoths could be a welcome addition if re-introduced to the wild, but if they were made just for exhibition at zoos, "I don't see any good in that at all."

Critical thinking challenge: Why were mammoth's wooly?

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COMMENTS (39)
  • CharismaM
    4/29/2015 - 09:27 p.m.

    I think it would be pretty cool to bring back mammoths. I don't think they should do it if they plan on keeping them in zoos though. It's also kind of dangerous for the animals with people that want to harm them for their resources like their fur and tusks out in the wild.

  • LAensly-Cas
    4/30/2015 - 10:06 a.m.

    Mammoths might have been wooly because of the ice age that required them to stay warm at all times.
    Before reading this article I thought it would be really cool to bring back such an amazing extinct creature, and even questioned that if we could bring back mammoths then why cant we bring back other species that have gone extinct recently. But after reading this article I realized that putting other animals in danger to bring another back is a bad idea, especially if it's just going to be born to be put behind a cage at a zoo and not in its, then, natural habitat. It's not okay to cage an elephant in the first place, or any other animals just for entertainment. In my opinion we shouldn't bring any extinct animals back, unless we're going to release them into the wild where they belong.

  • caitlinl-Goo
    4/30/2015 - 10:43 a.m.

    Mammoths are considered "wooly". The text states, "Woolly mammoths were about as big as modern African elephants and they sport long curved tusks and (thick hairy coats)." The evidence from the text suggests why mammoths were considered "wooly".

  • williamd-Koc
    4/30/2015 - 11:34 a.m.

    i thinkk recreating the mammoth is a dangerous yet interesting idea.It can give us clues on how and why they went extinct and it can show us how their living habits were like. But it can be dangerous because they went extinct for a reason and it could also mess up the food chain.

  • zacharyhuyser.72
    4/30/2015 - 12:48 p.m.

    I think scientists should not bring the woolly mammoth back. I just think it is unnatural, and it is wrong to resurrect something from the dead, it's just not human. It would be cool to see a woolly mammoth, but it just isn't right. I have researched and found that it is indeed possible to clone a woolly mammoth, but scientists are questioning if it's ethical.

  • Kobe89
    4/30/2015 - 12:51 p.m.

    Just the thought of bringing something back from the dead sounds crazy, but after reading this I think that this crazy idea can be true. I think if they have the technology to bring back these wonderful beasts they should do it even if it is going to be in a zoo, isn't that what zoos do, help animals that are going extinct? To see a woolly mammoth in person would amazing. I looked up the progress on this idea to bring back mammoths and the research states that it is possible and many people would like this to happen. If they can bring back a mammoth what's stopping them from bringing back dinosaurs or extinct animals? I would love to see dinosaurs, but we don't need a Jurassic Park on our hands.

  • Kae-Lynn.Hiben10
    4/30/2015 - 01:09 p.m.

    This was an amazing article.I began marveling the thought of them bringing the species back. I became inquisitive about mammoths I started to wonder when they first discovered the first mammoth bones. So I went to work and found out the first mammoth bones were discovered by German scientist Johann Friedrich in 1799. That is over 216 years ago! Anyways this was just a prodigious article and I hope the scientists succeed in their mission to bring the elephant's ancestor back.

  • TehyaWhite-Ste
    4/30/2015 - 01:10 p.m.

    If scientists are this close to bringing back wooly mammoths does this mean that they can bring back other extinct animals too? In that case, does that also mean that there will be no such thing as animals becoming extinct?

  • ShaniaWentz-Ste
    4/30/2015 - 01:21 p.m.

    Ever since I have seen the movie Ice Age, I have always wondered what it would be like to see one in person. They look really cool! I hope that scientists can bring them back, somehow.

  • Haley Patterson
    4/30/2015 - 01:52 p.m.

    If scientists are this close to bringing back wooly mammoths does this mean that they can bring back other extinct animals too? In that case, does that also mean that there will be no such thing as animals becoming extinct?

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