American Elephants


Ladies and Gentlemen, Welcome to Jurassic Park! by The Elephant's Child


Woolly Mammoth Recreation: Wikimedia Commons

Researchers from Russia and South Korea are planning to resurrect the Ice Age woolly mammoth.  The scientists signed a deal on Tuesday to share technology and research that could lead to the birth of a mammoth clone, gestated in a surrogate Indian elephant mother.

Mammoth remains were uncovered in thawed Siberian permafrost, and around the world, scientists have been trying to extract DNA from the remains.  Paleobiologists previously were able to reproduce mammoth blood protein, and Japanese researchers want to resurrect the mammoth within five years.

This new project will move forward if the Russian institution, the North-Eastern Federal University of the Sakha Republic can ship the mammoth remains to the Koreans.

The project would work like earlier cloning studies that successfully reproduced dogs, a cow, a cat, a pig, a wolf and coyotes. The nuclei of mammoth somatic cells would be implanted into the nuclei of donor elephant eggs, to produce elephant embryos with mammoth DNA.  The embryos would be implanted then in elephant wombs, where they would gestate for 22 months.

The earlier protein study showed that we can learn much by working with these extinct creatures — the mammoth blood was found to contain an anti-freeze component that no one would have guessed existed.

Woolly mammoths were not significantly larger than today’s African elephants, and males reached around 9 feet.  Unlike today’s elephants they had small ears, the largest found are only 12 inches long. The tusks were extremely long, up to 16 feet long, and markedly curved.  It’s not clear what the purpose was, they may have been used as shovels to clear snow from the ground and reach the vegetation underneath.

By 1929 the remains of thirty-four mammoths had been found with frozen soft tissues. Only four were relatively complete.  Large amounts of mammoth ivory have been found in Siberia.  Mammoth tusks have been items of trade for at least 2,000 years. They disappeared at the end of the Pleistocene —10,000 years ago, but an isolated population survived on Wrangell Island until roughly 1700 B.C. Woolly mammoths appear in cave art in Dordogne, France. Mammoth specimens have been found in North Carolina and Kentucky.

I suspect that anyone who saw Jurassic Park would find the cloning effort  a little uncomfortable at best.




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