Cloning a wooly mammoth: Harder than it sounds

A Japanese research team has begun the process of cloning a wooly mammoth and thinks it can pull off the job in 5 years. Discover magazine is skeptical.


  1. No easy task, but the rewards would definitely be worth the effort. Think about it: if our primitive ancestors were willing to take one of those beasts down with nothing more than a bunch of pointy sticks then they must be delicious.

  2. Oh Discover Magazine…

    You underestimate the determination of the Japanese when confronted with the possibility of eating a new type of large, endangered, mammal…

  3. Fascinating. Basically they plan to create a new species, a mammoth elephant hybrid. What I find problematic is that they are forced to use corrupted mammoth source code, probably filling in the gaps with elephant DNA, to fertilize an elephant ovum. If they do it the way I imagine them to, the resulting DNA is less than 50% mammoth. The whole process is a gamble. This genetic blueprint combined with an elephant womb may start cell division, may reach early stages of being a living organism. Who knows? DNA and its resulting ribosomes, proteins, enzymes and so on are extremely sophisticated, and irregularities in the genetic sequence can and often do have fatal consequences because a lot can go wrong when trying to grow a complex and dynamic living organism. In fact the true miracle of live is that it works at all, cheating entropy until its death (and cheating it even more through procreation).

    The low success rates of cloning extinct creatures might be an indication that we are, necessarily, working with flawed DNA, thereby creating flawed creatures at high rates, if at all. Once such a creature is alive in a way that mammals are this probably means we have succeeded at creating a sufficiently less flawed organism. It may however still not be fit for life.

    To get an idea what I’m hinting at think about the last time you were ill. It’s not nice. We may very well be inventing creatures who are sickly or otherwise suffering that never reach an age comparable to its ancestors’ lifespan. Might be somewhat unethical…
    On the other hand I’d love to see a Chickensaurus.

    Also Kinki University sounds like fun.

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