Woolly Mammoth to be Resurrected Soon

This doesn’t have much to do with The Controversy between evolution and creationism, except by way of contrast. Some scientists are embarked on a fascinating mammoth-cloning project. It’s real science — the sort of thing creationists never do.

Rather, creationists dwell in their shacks, review press reports about what genuine scientists are doing, compare that to their primitive understanding of scripture, and shriek “Blasphemy!” while condemning the “Darwinists” to the Lake of Fire.

We read in London’s Daily Mail that Japanese scientists ‘to resurrect extinct giant from frozen DNA within five years’. A few brief excerpts, with bold added by us, will be sufficient to give you the general idea:

Japanese scientists are behind an ambitious project to bring the long-extinct mammal back from the dead. The revival requires a sample of intact DNA for cloning purposes and an elephant to act as surrogate mother, donating an egg and her womb.

Neat, huh? We fear that the newborn’s appearance is going to be a shock to the mother elephant, but they’ll probably be watching for that. Let’s read on:

Taking into account the 600 or so days needed for the pregnancy, the first baby mammoths of the modern age could be born in four to five years.

Six hundred days? That’s twenty months — a long time to be pregnant. We continue:

The Kyoto University researchers are planning an expedition to the Siberian permafrost this summer in search of a flash-frozen specimen still rich in DNA.

It’s an old-fashioned mammoth hunt! Well, almost. Here’s more:

DNA from the mammoth’s cells will be injected into an empty egg, taken from an elephant, its closest living relative.

The egg is then zapped with electricity to trick it into growing and dividing, like a normal embryo. It will then be allowed to mature in the lab for a few days, before being inserted into the womb of an elephant that will act as a surrogate mother, in the hope that she will eventually give birth to a baby mammoth.

Inserted into the womb of an elephant? Egad! Who’s going to volunteer for that job? Moving along:

This related story in National Geographic informs us that the leader of this adventurous project is Professor Akira Iritani, chairman of the genetic engineering department at Kinki University in Japan and a member of the Mammoth Creation Project.

We hope this project succeeds. Our ancestors apparently thrived on mammoth meat, and we’d certainly like to try some.

What will the creationists say about this? Probably that it’s evidence of intelligent design. But then, everything is evidence of intelligent design, which is why ID is such a handy theory.

Update: See ICR Comments on the Mammoth-Cloning Project.

Copyright © 2011. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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14 responses to “Woolly Mammoth to be Resurrected Soon

  1. Benjamin Franklin

    Woolly mammoth DNA grown in a host elephant’s womb?
    Promiscuous pachyderms?
    Certainly does sound a little kinki to me.

  2. Gabriel Hanna

    Cloning mammoths is pretty cool, but the future that was predicted when I was a kid included flying cars and robot butlers. While we do have the internet, and it is better in some ways than the things predicted then, so far it has only produced flying car and robot butler porn and not the things themselves.

    So, to me, the future isn’t here yet, even if we can get pet mammoths for Christmas in 2015.

  3. Personally, I’m all for it. It would be nice if extinction doesn’t have to be forever. They can’t stop with just one, though. Mammoths were probably nearly identical with modern elephants in living in organized herds (at least for females, led by an older matriarch). Would a baby mammoth growing up in an elephant herd be accepted by the elephants and would it pick up the social experience it needs for a smooth continuity to eventual herds of just mammoths? There’s also the environment it would need for free-ranging. As I recall from my reading, the “mammoth steppe” no longer exists in the modern world, as it was created in large part by grazing mammoths themselves, though a population of free-ranging mammoths in Siberia or Alaska might re-create it in short order. The irony is that the end of the 21st Century might see herds of mammoths roaming freely for the first time in thousands of years, while tigers no longer exist in the wild due to habitat loss.

    As for the Controversy… I’ve seen the possibility of cloning extinct animals discussed on some forums where YEC’ers are known to manifest themselves. Nobody likes the idea much. Complaints include (I paraphrase): “Who are we to play God? If mammoths are extinct, He must have wanted it that way.” “Why are they spending so much money on bringing back dead elephants when it could be better used for building hospitals and curing human diseases?” “Hey, all you dirty Darwinists and evil evil-lutionists, if your wicked philosophy says that an extinct animal wasn’t ‘fit’ to live, why are you trying to bring it back? To be consistent with your own twisted morals, shouldn’t you just let it stay extinct?”

    Phooey on them. I say, bring ’em back! Bring ’em all back! I vote for woolly rhinocerousesseses next!

  4. Gabriel Hanna,

    I was promised flying cars!

  5. Benjamin Franklin

    “Why are they spending so much money on bringing back dead elephants when it could be better used for building hospitals and curing human diseases?”

    As of this time over $860,000 has been pledged to Answers in Genesis to build their silly Fark, after over $27,000,000 was spent to build his Flintstones Funhouse he calls a museum.

    Why are they spending so much money on creating white elephants when it could be better used for building schools and educating our youth so they can learn the science to, among other things, cure human disease?

  6. As I remarked on Twitter earlier, the main problems these Japanese scientists foresee is how to dissuade the mammoth from rampaging through downtown Tokyo smashing the buildings up.

  7. Would a baby mammoth growing up in an elephant herd be accepted by the elephants and would it pick up the social experience it needs for a smooth continuity to eventual herds of just mammoths?

    Not knowing anything much about elephants, I’d still have to say ‘almost certainly’ to both questions. Mammals seem pretty laid back when it comes to adopting strange looking kids. Mama cats will raise puppies. There’s the baby duck imprinting thing. I’ve even seen on a nature show were a small dog raised a jaguar kitten…and the jaguar deferred to the dog even when it was grown and eating dog-sized prey.

    In short, the stretch between elephant and mammoth is probably not as big as some of the other stretches we see going on today. Heck, if many of the mammoth features are developmental, it might come out looking and acting exactly like a baby elephant.

  8. All I have to say is that the researchers had better name the little fella Snuffleupagus.

  9. I remember learning about the cloning procedure (when Dolly was born), and I thought, “They zap it with electricity? That’s soooooo Dr. Frankenstein!”

  10. Aw, the poor things will be excluded from Hambo’s Ark Park Lark!

    “Lark” – English informal phrasal verb – to behave in a silly or playful way.

  11. One doesn’t have to be a creationist to have concerns about this. Mammoths are probably not risky animals to bring back, although I imagine that they eat a lot, but ancient bacteria or velociraptors may be another level of danger. (Sounds like “Jurassic Park,” eh?) The danger here is the same as what happens when a species is introduced in a new area that lacks natural limits to it.

    Still, I would like to see a mammoth and an auroch and a dodo in the living flesh.

  12. Greg Camp says:

    Still, I would like to see a mammoth and an auroch and a dodo in the living flesh.

    They’d all be very tasty, I imagine. Let’s bring ’em back.

  13. Surely there must be doubts about whether or not they can find cells and DNA in good enough shape for cloning. I’ve heard that sequencing mammoth genes can be challenging, due to breaks and the like.

    Of course I don’t want to say that it’s impossible. But just because mouse cells frozen in ideal circumstances could be used for cloning 16 years later is no guarantee that environmentally frozen mammoth cells can be used to clone mammoths 10,000 years or more later.

    I’m glad someone is trying. But I sure wouldn’t want to wager a lot that it can be done so readily and so soon.

  14. I’m not really up on cloning techniques, but Dolly the sheep was created by extracting a mammary gland cell and putting its nucleus in place of the nucleus of an unfertilized egg cell, an oocyte, then incubating it in the womb of a sheep.

    Granted that it may be possible to recover DNA from a frozen mammoth, that doesn’t mean you’ll be able to recover or recreate a somatic cell nucleus, which is what you need for that method of cloning.