Michael Crichton and Steven Spielberg may have egregiously left Mammoths out of Jurassic Park in lieu of their reptilian predecessors, but scientists now claim that cloning a Wooly Mammoth is a very real possibility and it might not take as long as you think.
Most remains of the large prehistoric mammals are not found fossilized the way that dinosaur skeletons are. Because the remains are still organic, scientists hope to find complete cells. Russian and Japanese scientists want to take those cells and insert the genetic material into the egg of a modern day elephant.
That might not be as easy as it sounds. Hendrik Poinar, a researcher at McMaster University told CBS News, “If — and only if — they find intact cells, they might be lucky at 5 to 10 years,” Poinar said. “But I highly doubt they will find intact cells.”
Scientists have actually cloned extinct animals before. The Pyrenean ibex, which went extinct in 2000, was cloned by Spanish scientists, but soon died of lung problems. Abnormal development is a common issue which cloning.
Cloning has long been a ubiquitous topic in science fiction. Even before it looked like a scientific possibility in our lifetime, there were ethical issues that have been explored in a variety of media. Now that this is a real possibility in the next 5-10 years as some people claim or more like 20 as others maintain, the practical and ethical arguments have become very real concerns.
“There is no good scientific reason to bring back an extinct species,” Poinar said. “Why would one bring them back? To put them in a theme park? Doesn’t seem like a good use of taxpayer dollars to me. Simply studying their evolution, which can be done from old fossil bones, seems far more satisfying to me — but that’s just me.”
So if you were hoping to escape long dead species alongside a witty chaos theorist, scientists have other ideas. Perhaps the best part of this news: a mammoth without Ray Ramano’s voice.
Do you think we should be bringing back extinct species? What’s your favorite science fiction work to deal with the topic?