Thursday, April 30, 2020

Can We Bring Back Mammoths From Extinction?

Clone the Mammoth
Woolly Mammoth

by Riley Black - Discover - Bringing the beasts back from the dead is a tempting prospect. But genetic evidence suggests we may not fully understand what makes a mammoth.

The last mammoths were in trouble. Isolated on Wrangel Island, a spit of land off the coast of Siberia, the last pack on Earth was sickly and weak from centuries of chronic inbreeding. The prehistoric pachyderms were no longer as fertile as they once were, their coats took on a strange translucence, and some suffered neurological problems. About 4,000 years ago, the species was wiped out for good.

Today, the only mammoth you’re likely to see is a hulking reconstruction in a museum — the size and structure of its bones drawing an outline of the beast. But there’s more to mammoths than their skeletons. In a time when the possibility of bringing the pachyderms back to life regularly makes headlines, researchers are studying how the mammoths lived and died through their genes as well as their bones.

The Ice Age icons are model organisms for paleogenetics, a relatively new field following advances in technology that allow pieces of ancient DNA to be identified, duplicated and studied. Mammoths were once common creatures — widespread across the Northern Hemisphere — and lived recently enough for scientists to reclaim genetic material from their remains. And frozen carcasses recovered from Siberia especially raise the specter of de-extinction. If we have so many of them, why couldn’t we bring back the mammoth? Read the Whole Story HERE

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