Tech. Science. Culture.
We may earn a commission from links on this page

A Step-By-Step Guide to Resurrecting the Woolly Mammoth

We may earn a commission from links on this page.

As our grasp of genetics and cloning grows, the one question everyone asks is, "When can we recreate an extinct species from old DNA?" It just so happens that scientists have quite a bit of woolly mammoth DNA lying around, and now science journal Nature has got the resurrection process all figured out.Mammoths lived and died pretty much exclusively in very cold climates, so paleontologists have been able to find a few of them freezer packed for freshness. With access to such well-preserved specimens, geneticists have sequenced roughly 70 percent of the species' genome. At the same time, some labs are hard at work sequencing the elephant genome, which is the closest match to the mammoth currently alive on Earth. So Nature decided to find out exactly what it would take to bring a real, living woolly mammoth into the world again. 1). Build the DNA from scratch using the basic chemicals that make up all base pairs, with the reconstructed mammoth genome as the recipe. You might have to fill in some gaps in the mammoth genome with elephant, in case we can't find enough frozen mammoths to complete theirs. 2). Get two copies of each of the dozens of mammoth chromosomes into the nucleus of a viable cell. This step is like giving someone directions to a far-away place by simply giving them the latitude and longitude. We can sort of do this on a small scale, but we probably don't have the technology to make this happen with mammoths yet. 3). Make the cells into an embryo. You'd probably use an egg from a modern female elephant to accomplish this, essentially creating a clone of the "artificial" mammoth DNA you'd manufactured. 4). Bring the embryo to term. Using an elephant as a surrogate mother seems logical, but apparently there are logistical problems with a modern elephant's internal structure. Robot mammoth mom, maybe? 5). Find some more frozen mammoths so you can create genetically distinct clones. You'll never have a breeding population without some genetic diversity. Creating a real-world Jurassic Park (or, in this case, a Pleistocene Park) would be just about the coolest thing ever. Oddly enough, nobody mentions chaos theory in the Nature article, but there is a way we could cheat JP-style. By comparing the mammoth and elephant genomes, we could genetically engineer a "mammophant" that looks pretty much the same as a woolly mammoth, but isn't. Image by: rpongsaj. Resurrecting the mammoth? New research raises the prospect. [Ars Technica] DNA sequencing: Mammoth genomics. [Nature]