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
Lexile

Scientists are getting their best look yet at the DNA code for the woolly mammoth. It's thanks to 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. That was 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. It lived 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. They sported 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. Not everybody favors the idea.

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. He also said it's "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. The elephants would 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, is another study author. He 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 (154)
  • gtimms8@ims.com
    4/29/2015 - 03:29 p.m.

    It's amazing that scientists have gotten closer to making a mammoth from prehistoric times that are now extinct. We haven't made a mammoth yet but it will hopefully be living someday.

  • arwillisb-Orv
    4/29/2015 - 04:13 p.m.

    so if this worked does that mean scientist can bring back extinct species. like dodo birds and others cause that will be very cool. and i wonder if it would work on humans that has passed away

  • tobet-Loo
    4/29/2015 - 04:44 p.m.

    I don't think the wooly mammoths should be brought back to Earth, I like them, but I don't think they're friendly. If they were, I'd be glad to bring them back! I also have a question, are you sure they look like that? Do they have evidence that they look like that, or are they just assuming that it looks like that. My answer to critical thinking challenge: I think they are wooly, but they weren't wooly at the start. They probably lived in a snowy biome for a long time, and adapted to it. They then got wooly probably because of DNA.

  • alexisp-Fit
    4/29/2015 - 05:03 p.m.

    Mammoths were wooly because they lived in the Ice Age. They used their woolliness to stay warm and survive. I don't believe Wooly Mammoths just went extinct, I believe that they evolved into elephants over thousands of years. When the Ice Age ended, they no longer need to be wooly, and I think they lost that trait and because of this. I believe that an elephant could give birth to a Wooly Mammoth without many challenges. Of course, scientists need to do more research before they try and bring back Wooly Mammoths. They also should remember Jurassic Park because that movie shows us that we should not mess with nature. Wooly Mammoths went extinct for a reason, and scientists can not forget this.

    • alveyb-rei
      9/21/2015 - 04:00 p.m.

      Good response you really described and shared your thoughts.


  • AJ_Slater
    4/29/2015 - 06:24 p.m.

    Due to new advances in genetics we are now able to understand the genetic cod of animals better. By grabbing species of mammoth DNA we are now starting to be able to make them come back. We will do this by using the elephant mothers to carry the genome of a woolly mammoth. I think this is very cool and can't see anything against it.

  • John0724-YYCA
    4/29/2015 - 07:08 p.m.

    This is not a good idea because when they create the mammoth and forget one little teeny tiny thing than it could be a really big problem because you never know when that mammoth that got created turns out to be a human eating giant mammoth. I think to create the mammoth they have to be one hundred percent sure that it will work or else than they should just forget about re creating extinct life again because once again you will never know what else will come out of the mammoth. Critical thinking challenge: Why were mammoth's wooly? Answer: They are called wooly because they needed to survive the ice age with their wooly fur to keep themselves warm.

  • annabel1226-yyca
    4/29/2015 - 07:10 p.m.

    It is going to be cool when the mammoth lives in Earth today. But how are they going to survive are they going to be in Africa. What if the lion hunts the Mammoth and there will be no more? If we have technology makes the animals talk then I will talk to the mammoth why did they died. Is it because of the volcano or is it because they freeze to death.

    Critical thinking challenge: Why were mammoth's woolly?
    Answer: Mammoth had woolly because they might lived in a cold place so they tried to make them self warm.

  • SladeG-2
    4/29/2015 - 07:22 p.m.

    This article is about scientists bringing back the extinct Woolly mammoths that lived over 50,000 years ago. Scientists have took a DNA sample of a woolly mammoth with that lived 45,000 years ago and one that lived 4300 years ago. Scientists have suggested that mammoths could be re-created with genetic engineering. Woolly mammoths were about as big as modern day elephants. My opinion on this article is that I think it would be a good idea to recreate this beast of a creature back into the wild and not just for the zoos.

  • LaceyK-Kut
    4/29/2015 - 07:46 p.m.

    It's amazing what science can do these days. Bringing back the mammoths would be an amazing thing to see happen! I wonder if it's possible for scientists to bring back even more extinct species. I'm sure it is since they've found out ways to be able to bring back mammoths. Hopefully more species will be brought back if they have DNA from them!

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