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Japan Science Idle

Russian Scientists Say They'll Clone a Mammoth Within 5 Years 302

Posted by samzenpus
from the pleistocene-park dept.
Many scientists (mainly Japanese and Russian) have dreamed of cloning a mammoth over the years. When the mammoth genome was partially reconstructed in 2008, that dream seemed a bit closer. Besides the millions of dollars needed for such a project, the biggest hurdle was the lack of a good sample of mammoth DNA. That hurdle has now been cleared, thanks to the discovery of well-preserved bone marrow in a mammoth thigh bone. Russian scientist Semyon Grigoriev, acting director of the Sakha Republic's mammoth museum, and colleagues from Japan's Kinki University say that within 5 years they'll likely have a clone. From the article: "What's been missing is woolly mammoth nuclei with undamaged genes. Scientists have been on a Holy Grail-type search for such pristine nuclei since the late 1990s. Now it sounds like the missing genes may have been found."
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Russian Scientists Say They'll Clone a Mammoth Within 5 Years

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  • Re:Ice Age Park (Score:5, Interesting)

    by bobcat7677 (561727) on Tuesday December 06, 2011 @02:23PM (#38283420) Homepage
    Seems less likely than Jurassic Park to attract enough tourists to keep such a venture solvent. Besides...what can they really do with one set of DNA? You bring one back from the dead as it were, but wouldn't you need at least two (male and female) to re-start the species...and several to have any remotely healthy genetic diversity? Frozen specimens have shown what the animal was like...not sure what more could be learned from a living example?
  • by Palshife (60519) on Tuesday December 06, 2011 @02:28PM (#38283492) Homepage

    We have penguins at the St. Louis zoo.

  • Re:Ice Age Park (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Hentes (2461350) on Tuesday December 06, 2011 @02:40PM (#38283652)

    It might be possible to crossbreed them with elephants, but even one animal would be a huge success, as it would lead to the development of methodology to revive an extinct animal, and with the global extinction of today, there will be need for such technology.

  • by nut (19435) on Tuesday December 06, 2011 @03:10PM (#38284046) Homepage

    So they have the nucleic DNA - what about DNS from other intra-cellular bodies such as mitochondria? What about the epi-genetic effects of bringing a mammoth fetus to term inside another species? (Presumably an elephant.)

    I think what they will end up with is an approximation of a mammoth, not an true instance of the species that became extinct 10,000 years ago.

  • by jellomizer (103300) on Tuesday December 06, 2011 @03:16PM (#38284126)
    I doubt that humans were a major impact on the Mammoth population.
    1. They were big and dangerous. While perhaps once in a while their might be a mighty mammoth hunt, but for the most part lets hunt bison for a big catch. But normally hairs and fowl.

    2. Humans really are not well adapted for the cold. Mammoths like the cold... People do not. Sure there are some colonies who have made it. But no large cities large enough to decimate a population.
  • by thomasw_lrd (1203850) on Tuesday December 06, 2011 @03:38PM (#38284418)

    Actually according to the Poncas there were a few woolly mammoths left around until about the 1200's. At least one tribe has a story of an extremely long winter when food supplies were running low, and they then went hunting and killed a woolly mammoth, and it saved the tribe.

    Who knows what animals survived in small herds in the America's until the Europeans arrived.

    Source:
    http://www.helium.com/items/2119958-sightings-of-living-woolly-mammoths [helium.com]

  • by jd (1658) <<moc.oohay> <ta> <kapimi>> on Tuesday December 06, 2011 @03:42PM (#38284474) Homepage Journal

    Humans had a huge impact on Mammoths, that's well-established. The standard hunting technique for big game appears to have been to trigger a stampede off a cliff. You should also remember that humans primarily hunted Pygmy Mammoth, not the giant kind, and that humans lived right up to the ice sheet during the Ice Age (and even hunted beyond it). Neandertals and Denisovians were the primary hominids living in extremely cold climates, but modern humans were quite capable of enduring extreme climates provided some sort of food existed. (Fishing from boats turns out to have been an extremely ancient technology.)

    Having said that, Mammoth diversity was dropping long before humans even reached places like the Americas, so there were clearly other factors involved.

  • by Arker (91948) on Tuesday December 06, 2011 @03:47PM (#38284542) Homepage

    Uh, no.

    Look people like the image of the stone-age human hunter taking the huge bull mammoth down with a spear, perhaps working in groups... it's a very popular image for that reason. But it's utter nonsense. There's no hard evidence mammoths were ever hunted by humans. There is some evidence that mammoth meat was consumed by humans, which is often conflated, but scavenging food isnt the same thing as hunting. There is even some evidence that mammoths may occasionally have been killed by humans - but it was more likely an opportunistic event than a planned hunt. A small, young mammoth that happened to get cut off from its group? An isolated individual that got stuck in a bog? Sure, some of that would have happened, and humans would certainly seize the opportunity, but that's a far cry from actually going out to hunt healthy, full-grown mammoths with a stone spear.

    Wooly mammoths were quite a bit larger and more dangerous than todays African elephant. And we have one and only one known case of a human group hunting African elephants without firearms. Pygmy hunters in central africa do it and have apparently done it for centuries. BUT they dont do it with stone spears - they use bows and arrows coated with a potent poison. And even so, they often lose hunters. For even a large group of humans armed with Clovis technology to attack a full grown african elephant, let alone a mammoth, would be suicidally foolish.

    Elephants arent just HUGE animals, they are also quite intelligent. They are also social animals and move in groups. Another large (though much smaller) animal that also moves in groups and certainly WAS hunted at the time is the bison - but not only are even the extinct, gigantic species of bison still much smaller than a mammoth, there is a huge difference in their group behaviour. Bison are much more cow-like, and can be stampeded easily. And THIS is how they were actually hunted - whole herds were stampeded into fatal falls, then the humans went in to salvage meat and other material from the corpses afterwards. This is a much smarter tactic than trying to take one down with a spear (though also extraordinarily wasteful,) and in fact we know that is exactly how our ancestors did it. But that tactic just doesnt work on elephants.

    So, no, mammoth extinction did not come at the tip of a spear. If human action helped to bring about mammoth extinction, it was not in such a direct fashion.

  • by wcrowe (94389) on Tuesday December 06, 2011 @03:58PM (#38284668)

    ...what does a mammoth taste like?

  • Re:Ice Age Park (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 06, 2011 @04:04PM (#38284752)

    I think those numbers are for different things.

    Something like this:
    40 is for individes with diverse genes and with careful planing. ("generation ship" with 40 carefully chosen people for all over the world)
    150-200 is for randomly chosen individuals (almost) randomly fucking each other. ("new world ship" not filled with sects members)
    1700-2700 is for individes that already live close to each other and where most individes have a few relatives, (A small town getting isolated when the zombies attack.)

  • Re:Ice Age Park (Score:3, Interesting)

    by geekoid (135745) <dadinportland AT yahoo DOT com> on Tuesday December 06, 2011 @04:37PM (#38285130) Homepage Journal

    If it's tasty, we will have a million of them in a few years.

    Wouldn't it be weird if it replaced beef?

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