Scientists Reveal Plans To Bring The Wooly Mammoth Back From Extinction

The hybrids will look like elephants with smaller ears and a layer of fur.

Credit: Andrew Griffin/The Independent

A group of researchers at Harvard have announced that they are trying to?resurrect?the wooly mammoth that went extinct around 10,000 years ago. The announcement was made by the team who explained their intentions ahead of the annual?gathering of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in Boston earlier this week. They explained that their main aim of bringing the giants back from extinction is to use a?popular gene-editing tool called?CRISPR?to produce ?elephant-mammoth embryos?. The?Guardian?recently reported that the scientific team is currently only at the cell stage where they are experimenting with an array of combinations of both elephant and mammoth genes. Whilst the embryos themselves have not been created yet, the leader of the project has said that the team is merely two years away from producing them. Although recent?reports?have also said that it would be “many years” before any of the new “mammoths” would be allowed, or even able, to grow into full adults.

The method behind the creation of the extinct animals means that when they are fully grown, they will not be true mammoths, but rather hybrids. They have been?described?as “very furry, floofy elephant-like creatures,” if the embryos progress successfully. The hypothetical land-walkers have been named as “mammophants” by some reports during these early stages. The experimental species will look more like elephants than their extinct cousins, due to the way that the genes will be experimented with and switched around. However, their ears will be smaller than elephants’, and they will have a substantial layer of subcutaneous fat,?as well as?blood that is specifically designed for cold temperature climates. Due to this, it is likely that they will be “housed” in northern areas, according to the?reports.

Credit: IFL Science

The team have also announced that in order for the process of turning one of the embryos into a?fully-sized mammophant to have more of a chance of success, the scientists will grow it within an artificial womb, as opposed to placing the embryo inside a real female elephant who would act as a surrogate mother to the mammoth hybrid. However, this method has not yet been fully tested?and therefore remains unproven. Nevertheless, the team has decided to go down this route so that they do not risk the lives of the existing?and already endangered, elephant species.

Despite the?biotechnical expertise and scientific advancements of the?experiment, the project has already raised some ethical concerns. The main?worries?arise from many people who do not think that scientists should be rushing into introducing such a huge creature into modern environments. No one would be able to accurately predict the reactions and repercussions of introducing a major creature into natural environments where natural animals live their lives. In addition to this, some believe that?humanity?should be more focused on saving the lives of the increasingly depleting elephant populations, before focusing on introducing potential new ones that may not fit into the environment, and could even disrupt the current natural order in the wild.

Despite the?biotechnical expertise and scientific advancements of the?experiment, the project has already raised some ethical concerns. The main?worries?arise from many people who do not think that scientists should be rushing into introducing such a huge creature into modern environments. No one would be able to accurately predict the reactions and repercussions of introducing a major creature into natural environments where natural animals live their lives. In addition to this, some believe that?humanity?should be more focused on saving the lives of the increasingly depleting elephant populations, before focusing on introducing potential new ones that may not fit into the environment, and could even disrupt the current natural order in the wild.

Although still a long way off and despite the hybrids not being the “real mammoths” that once ruled the earth, it the project is successful, it will mean that humanity will have “brought back” a creature whose ancestors were last alive thousands of years ago.

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