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Scientists Hope to Clone Woolly Mammoth 215

Posted by Roblimo
from the now-we-need-a-protohuman-carrying-a-spear dept.
&y writes "Yes, and they appear to be serious. Here's a quote from the Seattle Times article: "When asked why scientists are trying to bring back a mammal that lived so long ago, Agenbroad said: 'Why not? I'd rather have a cloned mammoth than another sheep.'" A very convincing argument indeed."
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Scientists Hope to Clone Woolly Mammoth

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    might pay a lot of money to do other things to mammoths than touch their flesh ... mammoth steak anyone ?

    Of course, it will be interesting to see whether the newly cloned mammoth will be an endangered species

  • by Anonymous Coward
    this will certainly add alot of knowledge to a whole bunch of scientific fields. for instance, you have paleobiology, paleobotany (presumably, this mammoth will need to eat something), evolutionary mechanics (why was the mammoth deselected?), mammalian biology, etc. this is not to mention areas of science outside of biology such as retrieving the necessary genetic information from dead dna, filling in those gaps (hey fellas, don't use any frog dna please ;-), and other biochemical pursuits.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Wooly mammoths nearly hunted humans to the brink of extinction! This is the last thing we want to do! It was only by raising the temperature of the earth were we able to force them to flee to the outer solar system. If we cloned them, it would be easy for them to establish a base of operations here, from which they would lower the temperature of the earth and then signal for their comrades to return. If these scientists insist on cloning the mammoth, I suggest we all begin practicing our trampoline skills.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Fuck that... *I* want to be the only guy on the block with a pet velociraptor! "Go ahead, pet him... he probably won't kill you"
  • by Anonymous Coward
    One thing that popped into my head first thing when I read this article was "What about disease (for mammoths and humans)?" This mammoth was adapted in live with bacteria, viruses, etc. from the world 23,000 years ago; it is very possible it could not survive in the wild today except in a controlled environment because of modern disease. Remember what happened to the Native Americans when the Europeans came with their European disease.

    OTOH, the mammoth itself could be a danger to humans for what its body may produce. A bacteria, virus, etc. could infect said mammoth, not effect, but mutate said bacteria/virus/fungus/whatever, infect a human and from there our hypothetical disease would destroy the human race.

    Okay, so maybe I'm exagerating a little, but I can't believe no one has taken that into account the possble dangers to the mammoth and the environment it lives in before even considering this cloning experiment. Other than that these potential factors I think this is an interesting idea and I'm interested to see if they have any success.

    -Alec C.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I just have some opinions about the past few articles of this nature that I've seen on /. (WARNING: I am a biologist in training, so I guess I have a bias)!

    I just don't have much of a problem with this idea, and don't understand many of the sentiments of /.'ers on this topic. I think it's odd that an almost any tech(chem, phys, EE, etc.) topic, new discoveries/proposals are usually recieved with much hubris, but when it's a biological one, /.'ers seem to go into rant mode against it - usually without adequate scientific understanding of the issue!

    The opinion of many /.'ers seems to be that extinction has some kind of "moral conciousness" - that a species is extinct for some kind of purposeful, rational reason. But I don't believe that! Species are extinct due to COMPLETELY ARBITRARY reasons!(with the exception of those which we have killed off ourselves). Species aren't made extinct because they "should have" or "it was their time" - they just went extinct. period!

    It also seems that everyone has taken sci-fi movies a bit too seriously! I'm sorry but Jurassic Park is NOT a real valid reason to be against this kind of research! There are many valid technical and ethical reasons, but "because the dinos in JP/JP2 went nuts and killed everyone" in not one of them!

    Now, about the aritcle, although I guess I could be counted as a supporter of this line of research (and others to restore both extinct/severely endangered species), but I believe that there are MANY more technical reasons that this isn't possible than ethical. I believe that if we could achieve this, it would be an absolute goldmine for biologists, paleontologists, paleobiologists, etc. But, as one stated earlier, the genetic damage from thousands of years frozen might have made cloning impossible(although I think I recall that elephants are VERY similar to mammoths and thus could help). I also believe that the lack of knowledge on the ecology and health requriements might hinder the project, but then again, our current understanding of elephant nutrition/physical requirements might be enough.

    Also, as someone has previously mentioned, this would not be an attempt to bring a whole species back but a few individuals, so while this is still great for biologists, but ecologists can be assured that no rouge herd of rampaging mammoths will take over the siberian tundra! The ecological concerns are more important for species that are much harder to control, but a mammoth is NOT one of them (nor is the Tasmanian wolf). Look at elephant populations in Africa now - if we wanted too, we could probably kill the rest of the wild African elephant species in two decades at most. Thus even if we could bring back a mammoth species, it would not invade the world's ecosystem, as other alien, foreign-introduced species have (australian rabbits, cane toads, etc. Dutch Elm Fungus, etc).

    In closing, I guess I see much more benefit from the knowledge that could be gained from even the attempt(I don't doubt that biologists would learn a lot about genetics/cloning even if the attempt ultimately failed), than possible harm. As for whether the research couldn't be better spent elsewhere, that issue does have some merit. However, the argument could be used against many other fields (space explorations, non-medical biology, heck, paleontology in general), also more $$ towards a research goal, or humanitarian goal in general (hunger, crime, etc) does not necessarily bring about faster, and/or more effective results. Oh well, I wish the researchers in this, and the many other similar projects the best of luck, and hey, in several years, maybe I'll join their research!

    Respectfully,
    Kevin W. Christie
    kwchri@maila.wm.edu
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Actually it was hunted to extinction
  • A biologist in africa is trying to recreate the quagga, a horse-like zebra (or a zebra like horse), by taking zebra's with some of the qualities of the quagga and interbreeding them.

    This has obviously been possible for centuries, but he also has the benefit of being able to compare the original quagga DNA with his current generation.

    I dont think it's going to be fast tho, iirc he's set up a foundation to carry on his work.
  • Because you don't have a SGI with a copy of this program [sgi.com].

    Unfortunetly, it only works under Irix 5.3 and below, so I can't run it at work.
  • Well, the readme [sgi.com] file for it gives me the impression that FSN was around before the movie, and was what was used in the movie.
  • The article doesnt mention anything about if the animal could survive. When I think of a wooly mammoth I think big hairy elephant that lives in the snow. Would it be able to eat etc? What would the effects of bringing this animal back have on its food source? (i.e What if it eats manatees or some other endangered plant/animal). Haphazardly bringing animals back to life just because it would be cool doesnt sound like a good idea.

  • ..the Second Impact itself wasn't because of humanity(SEELE) playing around with cloning, it was when Adam was shrunken to embryo size. Adam _was_ there to tell humanity to stop dicking around with cloning, but got shrunken for his troubles(which then ended up killing half the world population).
  • The only problem I see with this is when a herd of wolly mammoths go rogue, there's nothing we'll be able to do to stop them. The only one with that kind of experience is Keerok, and do you think you're going to get him to abandon his law firm to sharpen his spear to save your scrawny ass? I don't think so.

    (Damn, I hope someone knows what I'm talking about.)

  • Assuming they can extract the DNA, insert it into an elephant egg, and grow the clone, it will have the nuclear genome of a mammoth... but the mitochondrial genome of an Asian elephant. Hopefully they'll at least sequence the mammoth's mitochondrial genome so that we know what we're missing.

    I wonder how many of the important phenotype differences between mammoths and elephants can be (even partly) attributed to mitochondrial mutations?
  • I dunno. I'm not a religious person -- I don't even really believe in God -- but the idea of playing Him just sort of seems wrong for some reason.

    Maybe it just from reading one too many Sci Fi books, but somehow the idea of bringing back an animal that had its chance and went extinct anyhow just seems plain wrong. I can't really intellectualize why it seems wrong, but it does.

    Of course, it might just be that my racial memory is urging me to charge the beast and stick a spear into its side....

    ----

  • Ooh, I like that. I think I'm adding it to my rotating .sig

    ----

  • I'm not talking about religion as a reason not to play with life. In fact, I didn't ever actually say that I believe in creationism; truth is, I don't. (Why create a miracle when you can use the natural processes of the universe?) What I'm trying to say is that playing with life and the creation of it - artificially, in a not-too-well-understand manner (sexual reproduction is well understood) - could prove to be disastrous. Imagine, if you would, someone who creates, for example, a Wooly Mammoth from some DNA samples we were able to find. Said wooly mammoth (and some of its kin; we found a bunch of variated DNA, or modified it to be variated [it's a hypothetical situation after all]) breeds, propogates, and starts, say, killing people. We're not hunter-gatherers any more, after all. Those people who were killed would undoubtedly have been, for example, alive, had these not been made. (For a little while, at least.)

    Now this is a pretty simplistic example, and not too terrible in terms of human life lost. But how about when geneticists get cocky, and for example, bring back smallpox, or make AIDS communicable by simple air. Not so simple.

    I'm all for progress. But we mustn't get ahead of ourselves. For the first time in history, we have at our disposal more than we understand - more than we're mentally and ethically ready to accept. This isn't the sort of thing we can do lightly, because it brings up so many interesting and difficult questions later on. Why did the mammoth go extinct? Was it a climate change? If so, why would it live now? If not, what killed it? Was it humans? Why wouldn't we just kill it again? Could it survive? Why suffer another mammoth to live on this earth when all its kin are gone? Wouldn't that be a terribly lonely existence?

    I'm encouraging further thought. Clone a wooly mammoth. Heck, clone a human. Do whatever, and then wash your hands of the consequences - it was in the name of science, after all. Don't accept responsibility for your actions. Or - do accept responsibility, and maybe think "Ok, so we can bring wooly mammoths back. Should they be brought back? I did see Jurassic Park, after all."

  • I'm not talking about movie-esque mad scientists. I'm saying that one completely reasonable step, after another completely resonable step, after another completely reasonable step, ad infinitum, leads to something that, seen from the "big picture" is absolutely horrid.

    Sure, we don't have much cosmic importance. We're a tiny mote on a tiny planet orbiting a small star on the arm of an average galaxy flying through infinite space. But, another way to look at it is: We're all we are likely to find! We're all that matters to us! If we wreck us, what else is there?

  • That's not a bad question, really. But there's something about playing with life - not just having someone or something's life in your hands, after all then all (carn,omn)ivores would be playing God - but actually creating life that is somehow sacred. For example, I don't think that, given the chance, even the most brilliant geneticist/biologist/etc would want to try to recreate life as it happened on this earth: we couldn't hope to do it better than whatever process brought us here, and would probably fuck it up horribly.

    The problem with tinkering with life is that we don't really understand it. Nuclear reactors? sure, we pretty much understand them. The physics of throwing a ball? pretty simple, really, given that you don't want to put relativity into the equation (and who would, on such a short distance?) But Life? That's a bit too steep an order. Whether God caused us to be by sheer force of will, or He caused a comet to crash into the earth carrying amino acids, or whatever happened, God or no, we don't understand the process fully. We couldn't hope to recreate it. It's when you're dealing with things like life and genetics that you start to question why or if you should do certain things.

  • Last I heard, the sheep clone began to age prematurely and could not be reproduced in any other experiment. Clones of smaller organisms since 1997 have only come from thousands of failed inoculations. The only improvement they've had is the number of postdocs they can fit into a lab inoculating eggs but the success rate is still 1 in 1000. It's a mindnumbingly tedious way to make a living in which there are more biology PhDs clawing for employment than ever before. Just get an engineering degree and save your sanity.
  • by Kabby (1265)
    Come on people, you're gonna compare this experiment to a movie starring Jeff Goldblum? Do we remember ID4?

    (sarcasm) YEAH LET'S HAX0R THE MOTHERSHIP WITH A POWERMAC FIZZNUGGETSDFWF#$@$! (/sarcasm)

    Ahem.

    Now, I don't know much about genetics because I hate biology; however I don't see why we shouldn't do this. Let's see our arguments here:
    • "It doesn't feel right" - neither does going to the dentist. Cloning an extinct species will be done, whether now by these scientists or a bit later on by another team of scientists. It's unavoidable, any genetic expert dreams of cloning such a species. The truth is, even though they're probably doing this to get some attention, that's not all they're doing it for. Such an experiment will bring a fortune of medical and biological information which we need to improve medicine and to understand how nature works a little better.
    • "We shouldn't play God" - I'm sorry, I can't take on that one; I am atheist. I don't want to offend anyone. But you must understand that for me this isn't an issue.
    • "They were extinct for a reason" - Yes, but we don't know what it is (do we?)- and in my opinion, not on purpose. So why don't we find out? IF we are successful in cloning a mammoth, we move on to step two- wait to see if they survive, and for how long. I SERIOUSLY doubt all hell is gonna break loose because we "defied" nature. Isn't that what we've been doing since Lucy?
    • "There are better things to clone" - Can't argue with that one. But it's not like it's the worst thing to clone. It's an extinct species, it should provide some interesting results.

    I say just let the scientists do their jobs. I personally find it a little sicker to clone a human being. Besides what's the worst that can happen, they get foreign architects to build the cage in centimeters and provide the information in inches?

    (hehe.)
  • "Iceage" would make a much more entertaining movie than Jurassic park was..


    I'd like to see mamoths, sabre toothed cats, some of those horse/elephant type beasts they had there for a while, maybe some neaderethals (you know, the cats need to eat their natural food..)

  • by jafac (1449)
    compared to many of the ways I could die, an abbatoir sounds pretty nice. (non kosher, done correctly - kosher requires a slit throat, yuk, and in regular slaughterhouses, less panic the animals are in produces higher quality meat, something about hormones released when the animal is in abject terror).

    I'd rather suffer a quick, semi painful electrical jolt, then loss of consciousness, than:
    Slowly waste away over a period of months from cancer, after several unsuccessful years of chemo, radiation, and massive surgery. (as opposed to the Kervorkian alternative)
    Bleed to death with my head sticking out of a shattered windshield, watching my insides ooze all over the dashboard, and onlookers in the other lanes creep by at ten miles an hour to get a peek. (because I couldn't afford a nice new Lexus with crumple-zones, antilock brakes, and airbags)
    Hang by my entrails from a mountainside tree where my 737 crashed, and slowly roast as the spilled fuel burns below. (Because the govt. decided to not crack down on airline safety due to lobbying efforts of airplane manufacturers)
    Suffer multiple gunshot wounds in my back from two LAPD police officers who didn't like the color of my skin.
    Starve to death over a period of months because my government felt I should be a farmer instead of a grocer - even though there was no unfarmed land left.
    Be the last in my village to be hacked to peices by machette due to tribal warfare.

    As you can see - when you try to define the word "humane", if you really examine things, it's quite ironic.

    "The number of suckers born each minute doubles every 18 months."
  • well, there will be many, many millions of copies. Is it not possible that we could find one copy intact? Or how about - with a technology a few decades away, reconstruct it from fragments from different copies?

    "The number of suckers born each minute doubles every 18 months."
  • by jafac (1449)
    Wool from sheep make nice sweaters.

    Wool from woolly mammoth - probably a lot scratchier.

    "The number of suckers born each minute doubles every 18 months."
  • by jafac (1449)
    Wool from sheep make nice sweaters.

    Wool from woolly mammoth - probably a lot scratchier.

    - - the other thing they have to worry about is Mitochondrial DNA - will be from the mother, not from the DNA source animal.

    "The number of suckers born each minute doubles every 18 months."
  • We either kill them or we let them die out. Doh. It's not a worse fate than ending up in the abbatoir anyway. Besides, the population of farm animals is not "rapidly increasing". Their reproduction is micromanaged by farmers.

    If that was supposed to be an argument against vegetarianism, it's just about the silliest I've ever heard...
  • It wouldn't help if they were trying to clone a female either. Actually, this isn't going to work out at all, even if they bring one or two back, you can't bring back a whole species without a lot of samples (and I doubt that enough samples of mammoth DNA that are still suitable for cloning are still in existence).

    Otherwise, you get massive inbreeding. That would be even more destrictuve to the mammoths than unrestricted hunting would.
  • And the lord spoke unto Wolly "Go Screw yourself", and then it was so. And Wolly proliferated.
  • Meat industry animals eat somehwhere around ten times more food than they grow muscles. So to produce 1kg meat you use ~10kg soy, wheat, oil, etc.

    Not that I think that is very important compared to the enormous suffering of the to-be-meat-persons, but still...
  • by gas (2801)
    What an absolutley wonderful idea! Unfortunatley it will probably be hard to find a complete set of genes (or any at all).

    And "flamebait"? Maybe, byt if some christians want to flame don't punish the poster. This is actually a cool idea worth considering!
  • http://sddt.com/files/librarywire/96wireheadlines/ 08_96/DN96_08_19/DN96_08_19_1b.html

    dated august 19, 1996. thats over three years ago.

    i had thought that intelligent people would be informed of such a thing and recognize that this is, in fact, very old news.

    obviously i was mistaken.
  • Well, my experience has been that senators are pretty clueless in a lot of ways, but are quite active. It takes a lot of work to get elected for public office... sadly that work is more or less unrelated to what's required of a senator.

  • Hmm..this is interesting. However, in light of what's happening to Dolly the sheep (i.e. premature aging), I'd tend to want to play around more with genetic expression. This, I think, is a more beneficial and/or cool way to spend time and money. This is sort of a lame example, in the sense that it doesn't do anything benificial to the plant, but my biology book has a picture of a plant expressing the firefly's light gene...it's a big tobacco plant that's glowing yellow :) Anyway, there are more practical uses for this sort of thing; I know I'd for one like to spend a lot of time manipulating genes that control mental disorders. With only 4 nitrogenous bases in DNA, I can't believe it would be too dificult (once you figured out the respective base sequences) to isolate, say, the depression gene(s) and rearrange their sequences such that you eliminate the genetic predisposition to the depression, and make them immune to chickenpox in the process!
  • Maybe I missed the mark with my point. What I'm thinking is yay, we can clone. Now that we have that much knowledge of DNA and how it works and how to grow random organisms with it, let's focus our attention on altering dna at the gamete stage so that we can ultimately overcome genes that are at least semi-responsible (not like they just up and happen...environment plays a factor too) for any of the mental disorders. Playing god? Yeah, but hey, if it benefits us then I'm all for it! :P
  • heh...so it's probably not available from my college bookstore? ;)

    anyway, It was just an idea....I think it would be neat if we quit cloning and spent some more time working on isolating the gene(s) that are responsible for mental disorders, multiple schlerosis, alzheimers, etc. From there, we could use our knowledge of genetics that we obtained from cloning to splice non-disease genes in place of the ones that do cause disease...

    just my $0.02

  • Gah, the hoary ol' slippery slope argument. Think about it for a second--using that, you can get to whatever kind of hell you want from the most innocuous starting point. Works to convince the ignorant and unsophisticated, I suppose. Ya need better than that to bamboozle the /. crowd. Hoser.
    Hell, with that argument you might even convince the ignorant and unsophisticated that key escrow schemes, face recognition, voice recognition and store credit cards are going to take away their privacy! You're right. You need better than that to bamboozle the /. crowd.
    --
  • It seems to me that religion is just a way to explain things that science could not. This was especially true 2000 years ago. There's a reason the church hated Galileo.

    Religion versus science debates really irk me. Both are talking about the same things just from different perspectives. Religious folks tend to personify science.

    I think it was Einstein who said something like his work allowed him to see into the mind of God. It's simply easier for us humans to personify science and nature.
  • I'm very taken with the idea of resurrecting the hulking, beautiful creature. But let's be honest with ourselves: this will never happen in an era where we still are losing a couple million a year to AIDS/cancer/Parkinson's/Leukemia. Hell, the US government has even been reluctant to maintain funding on even those vital projects as of late; how many budget spinsters on capitol hill are going to bite for this one? I guess maybe you could find an eccentric philahnthropist to finance it (Nathan Mhyrvold is supposed to be big into paleontology, isn't he?) This is a very Utopian project, one that makes me dream of a day when there is no poverty, disease, war, or any societal problems to worry about and all we have to do is resurrect dinosaurs and woolly mammoths and explore space. Makes you want to live forever, huh?
  • I guess if it will work or not is just one of the questions that surface. How about: Why do we want to do this? If science _really_ is ready to bring back extint animals, it's a shame it's not focusing all it's efforts (and resources) on not letting people (esp. children, of course) die of chickenpox (or any stupid and easily preventable desease you'd like to imagine). Of course then the question becomes one of social fairness, not science (but someone had to scream "ethics" sooner or later on this thread (right?)).
  • That's a very strange argument. What is "dying out naturally"? It's like when people say their grandparents died of "old age". Nothing happens without a cause.
  • While I agree that it would be interesting to see what such an animal would look like alive, I can't help but think that the last thing we need to be doing is re-introducing extinct species (which, arguably, are extinct for a good reason) when we can't 'take care of' the animals that already exist on this planet. How many endangered species are there that would not be endangered if not for the actions of man? Instead of trying to clone extinct species (which most likely went extinct due to natural selection), we should worry about preserving what we've already got, and more importantly, work to ensure that the growth of our species doesn't happen at the expense of other species.

    Then again, it would be really cool to be the only guy on the block with a wooly mamoth! Hrm... wonder if the village has any laws about that....
  • Right, and if all else fails, you can engineer them with a build in lysine deficiency so that they die within a half day or so of escaping.

    They're NEVER get past that. Har har har.



    - Darchmare
    - Axis Mutatis, http://www.axismutatis.net
  • "I don't think you can really look at scientists as a monolithic group who would be better off if they all focused on one problem at a time."

    Absolutely not. The sharing of information between scientific disciplines is one of the main factors responsible for the rate at which our knowledge is advancing.

    If all scientists were to focus in on one single issue, the solution would be found later, not sooner.

    At least that's how it seems to me...
  • by Sontas (6747)
    Seems to me that the reason quoted for doing this paticular cloning is just what those against cloning have been saying isn't a good enough reason... ie. We do it because we can. or We do it because we're bored with the old hat sheep cloning thing.

    I'm not against cloning, but I tend to agree that the reason that was quoted is simply not good enough. Cloning for the sake of cloning is asking for trouble. Moral and ethical issues aside, the tone of the argument suggests a blatant lack of consideration for the consequences and responsibilities that come along with trying to bring back a long dead creature, such as the mammoth. In the Seatle Times article they follow up the "Why not..." quote with another with another reason, to the effect of trying to find out what happened to the mammoth so we might be able to prevent it from happening to current species. While a more idealisting goal, I suppose, fail to see how the goal would be accomplished by this cloning.

    Perhaps the second, more idealistic, reason is good enough. But the owner of the mindset that spawned the first argument probably should not be in the lead on this cloning project, nor any other. But then again neither should I, so who am I to say anything. :)

  • Well, this is nothing new. Oliver Wendell Jones (hacker supreme) cloned Bill the Cat using DNA from Bill's tongue.

    Oliver may or may not have used his Banana Junior, 6000 Series, 32 bit, 450 KByte, fully portable personal computer (with Bananawrite, Bananadraw, Bananamanager, and Bananafile) in his endeavours.

    Remember kids, Gene Simmons never had a personal computer when he was a kid.

  • by craw (6958) on Saturday October 02, 1999 @07:11PM (#1643162) Homepage
    While the quotes may not be totally appropriate for a geneticist, please note that Agenbroad is identified as a geologist in the article. This is not to disparage geologists. However, it was clear to me that one should not necessarily believe nor take seriously the words of a non-expert when it comes to cloning. Agenbroad probably knows mammoths out his wazoo (he is a paleontologist) but he is not a geneticist.
    If one wants more info about Agenbroad, go to the NAU web site [nau.edu] and do a search.
  • by gjp (7460)
    Plants wouldn't be a problem. The current plants in any area in which prehistoric plants would be released have had a far longer time to better adapt themselves to their ecological niches through evolution. Prehistoric plants wouldn't stand a chance of taking over.
  • It is possible, but not (at this point) very plausible that this will work. After all the technology is still pretty young, the thing has been dead for a long time, and it does not help that they are trying to clone a male.

    However this does raise the question of whether or not we should be establishing a bank of samples from endangered species. Even if they go extinct, we could still have the possiblity of bringing them back at some point in the future.

    Does anyone know of any efforts along this direction?

    Ben
  • The expert they were quoting pointed out that cloning success rates are higher with females than males. The individual they are working with is male.

    Cheers,
    Ben
  • This is one of the [many] things we learned not to do from the fine documentary Jurassic Park.

  • Mammoths have been dead for so long that "genetic damage" doesn't begin to describe what their DNA has suffered.

    So runs conventional wisdom.

    In reality, even "dead for 70 million years" T. Rex somehow managed to have whole blood cells survive to our time. Methinks it resembles a weasel - but stinks of fish. In particular, "dead for 70 million years" Coelecanth, which you can buy in Indonesian fish markets today.
  • Survival of the fittest is something that occurs on a large variety of traits. The most obvious of those are physical strength, reproductive strategy, environmental adaptation, etc. However, I don't see why there isn't a "coolness" trait as well. A T-rex would be evolutionarily superior to some boring dinosaur even though both are extinct exactly because it has a better chance of being resurrected.

    Because humans exist as part of nature, anything we do is a completely natural process. In addition, let's define fitness as 'the ability to exploit natural processes for propagating DNA patterns'. This seems to imply that animals that are able to exploit the natural process of the human tendancy to ressurect animals and plants that we see as "cool" would be evolutionary fit.

    As such, the cloning of 'extinct' species (which presumably means those species that don't currently have any living representatives) is every bit a legitmate method of DNA propagation as sexual reproduction. Given millions or billions of years of cloning being part of the natural process of DNA propagation, the ability to take advantage of that may be more important to long term survival than any other method. It's theoretically possible that life could develop, or we could develop life that relies completely upon cloning for survival (read: Terminator gene technology).
  • actually, it should be a pretty good test. if it comes out hairy, and grows to be 1.5 the size of a modern elephant, then there won't be much doubt about whether it worked or not.

    the similarities between the elephant/mammoth should benefit the young mammoth, i would think, but shouldn't contaminate the young'n enough to raise much question about whether or not the experiment worked...scientists and journalists will just have to turn to other aspects of the experiment to flame each other over.
  • cause confused elephants are dangerous elephants?

    :)

  • by scrytch (9198)
    > My thinking is that they died out for a reason, and they'll die out again

    It seems most likely they were hunted to extinction. They'd die out again now because there simply isn't enough gene stock for them to survive. That and it's just not cold where elephants would tend to feed now.


  • The modern elephant is really close to the Wooly mammoth. They even are wooly when born.
  • Hmmmm...

    If "people kill all the XXXX" can be considered part of natural selection, then it only seems fair that "later people dig up some DNA and somehow come up with more XXXX" should also be considered part of natural selection.

  • I think it is past time for us to grow up as a race and realize that in many ways we ARE gods, with all the possibility for good and bad, and all the commensurate responsibility held solely by us. There is nothing inherently wrong with evolving. Razor


    Razor Blue, TechnoMage
    shackled to tranquility / silenced for eternity / four walls no windows / in your bounding box
  • My gift to you. I've got a million of 'em.


    Razor Blue, TechnoMage
    shackled to tranquility / silenced for eternity / four walls no windows / in your bounding box
  • But let's be honest with ourselves: this will never happen in an era where we still are losing a couple million a year to AIDS/cancer/Parkinson's/Leukemia.

    Millions of people die every year due to (fill in the blank).

    So what. We are all going to die. More people are dying of cancer because they aren't being killed by other diseases/causes at an earlier age.

    The fact that X people die from some disease is no reason not to spend money on the arts and sciences. NIH already gets more money than NASA, not to mention other spending on health research.

    War, disease, poverty and death are not going to disappear, no matter how much money we spend.

  • Well, I am sure there are lots of problems with developing a breeding population of mamoths today (like, where are you going to put them? They are going to need *lots* of room, and *lots* to eat - what other animals are going to get squeezed if they wanted to do this?), but the number of individuals available may not be one of them (or not as big as one might think).

    Cheetahs, for example, are all almost genetically identical. They come from an extremely small population that survived the last ice age (there are theories that it ws a single, pregnant female...). One effect of having a very inbred population is that genetic defects express themselves and "fall out" of the gene pool. You get a high attrition rate (probably) in the first N generations, but after that it stabilizes.

    Of course, you have the long term problem of lack of variability in the species, and adaptability problems that come with it. The cheetah is very much a "niche" predator.

  • Wonder what he would say?


  • Your crazy. How about we just clone dirt?...wow, that'd be loads of fun, heh. I agree with the movie part too, ever see that movie with the giant killer rabbits that eat people?....Just last week I saw one! Luckily I got away before it ate me!
  • by UnkyHerb (12862)
    For those of you who think that we shoudln't "toy with god's plan"....I have a comment. A lot of extinct animals are extinct because we killed them, I don't see how bringing something back that we killed would be bad. And if there is a god, and he has a plan, no one knows what it is, so would this post be violating "god's plan"? Makes you think doesn't it? It's not like were making 200 woolies anyway, it's just one, so go complain about the killing and extinction of current animals, and stop bitching about bringing some back.
  • Damn good post IMO. If I had moderator status I would moderate you up a notch.

    I was about to start responding to posts with "the baloney detection kit" myself.
  • Helllllooo...Newman!
  • A better question is why the hell are there pengiuns in the Central Park Zoo?

    My guess is that, since they are mammals, and thus warm blooded animals, that there is a certain threshold in which they can live.
  • Well, JESUS, it's good that there's no places left with anything other than a SoCal climate, now isn't it? We'd sure HATE to have to think about the consequences of less than a 70f temp all year round, wouldn't we? It'd be the end of the freaking world, wouldn't it? nosferatu-man (peeved 'cause it SNOWED on 1 October round here. Wooly Mammoths would be right at home.)
  • I'm not a god, I just play one in the lab.
  • This brings to mind a conversation my better-half and myself were having after this topic came up.

    If natural selection were left unchecked, the Indians (US, not Asia) would have hunted the buffalo to extinction. They certainly could have found uses for the creatures, they didn't waste a single part of them.

    The problem is that if they'd done that, they would have put themselves on a course for extinction by destroying their food source.

    Natural selection is a very complex equation, with many variables acting upon the whole. The indians avoided extinction by adapting -- by not hunting their primary prey to extinction. They did this not through instinct, but because they KNEW they needed to let buffalo continue to breed and such. Only after "the white man" came, did the buffalo get slaughtered. We didn't need them for survival, so we weren't inclined to protect them the way the indians had. By that time, there were other food sources for the indians, so they didn't face extinction either.

  • How many endangered species are there that would not be endangered if not for the actions of man? Instead of trying to clone extinct species (which most likely went extinct due to natural selection)...

    A couple reality checks for you...

    1. The Wooly Mammoth is extinct by the hand of man. Early man hunted the mammoth to extinction in a manner almost exactly the same as what we have done to several whale species.

    2. Kindly define for me - in logical terms - the difference between "natural selection" and "destroyed by man". Man (homo sapiens) is an animal just like any other, and a very vicious predatorial one at that. Just as the wolf's superiority might lead to one of its prey's extinction while another (more adaptable) prey might survive, there are no animals that have become extinct for any reason other than Natural Selection. If man (the top of the food chain) changed their environment, and they were unable to adapt to the polluted environment, that's natural selection. If man hunted the whales to the brink of extinction because the whales couldn't figure out NOT to swim near the whaling boats, that's natural selection.

    I can certainly understand your point, but you also have to realize that natural selection encompasses ANY reason a species goes extinct. Whether it is a predator hunting them down or an inability to cope with a changing environment, a species will either adapt itself (as many species have) or it will become extinct. To say that one species deserves "protection" over another is simply wrong. They are all equally extinct (or endangered).

  • Can you imagine how disappointed those rich people will be when they find out that it just tastes like chicken?


    ---
    Have a Sloppy day!
  • Thrakkerzog, you have made an honest mistake. You probably think the wooly mammoth is...

    ... a quadraped, which lives in big rivers like the Amazon. It has 2 ears, a heart , a forehead and a beak for eating honey. It is also provided with fins for swimming. Mammoths are bigger than frogs. Mammoths are however very dangerous so if you see one where people are swimming you must shout out, "Look out! There are Mammoths!"
    Obviously, there would be grave risks in cloning such an animal. Fortunately, though, the animal you're actually thinking about is the wooly llama, not the mammoth. So I wouldn't worry.
    ---
    Have a Sloppy day!
  • Um. How about Canada? Or Siberia?

    As long as they have enough to form a herd, and wolves aren't too big a threat. Wherever Moose live, I guess, you could put a Wooly Mammoth.

    -AS
  • by Anonymous Shepherd (17338) on Saturday October 02, 1999 @04:36PM (#1643194) Homepage
    Yeah! Who wants a stupid sheep when we could get a Wooly Mammoth?

    But if that's the case, we could also clone rhinos and elephants and other rare/endangered species, right?

    However, the shortened teleomeres thing might put a damper on things. Also the fact that we need to take into account the 1 successful birth out of like 11 successful implantations out of 200 eggs created out of like 1000 attempts, or whatever the astronomical odds are.

    Plus, are we just going to use elephants as hosts?

    What about genetic incompatibility or contamination? Elephant antibodies and such?

    -AS
  • Where does science end and playing god begin? If a surgeon cuts a tumour -- a natural occurance -- out of a body, is he acting god? What about the Wright brothers? Neil Armstrong?
    Every time a technological advance comes along, it can (and usually is) viewed by some people as 'playing god'.
  • Disclaimer: I'm not terribly knowledgeable about this.

    Having two mammoths isn't enough to sustain a reproducing population. The bare minimum amount of unique genomes necessary to breed a single baby mammoths (from two mammoths) is 1, and it must be male so that you have a Y chromosome. However, the offspring will be inbred, and suffer from all sorts of horrible problems such that they are unlikely to reach the age of reproduction. Even if you have two unique mammoth genomes, the second generation will inbreed.

    The figure I seem to remember for mammals is 500 unique genomes to sustain a population, and that's really the minimum. For a species that's been extinct for tens of thousands of years, I'd guess we'd need much more than that. The wider the gene pool, the more likely that natural selection will be able to pick genes that might have been rare at the time, but now would be helpful to our woolly friends.

    So in other words, a single mammoth might be a neat little trick, and we might learn something from it, but don't expect to see them wandering in your national park of choice any time soon.

  • by Imperator (17614) <`ten.reknehsremo' `ta' `2todhsals'> on Saturday October 02, 1999 @06:02PM (#1643199)
    I'd like to suggest cloning a Dust Puppy. This would have many practical advanatages:
    - code AIs for you
    - fun at lan parties (plays a mean game of Quake)
    - gets along well with sentient computers and RPN calculators
    - doesn't like sushi
  • "...but actually creating life that is somehow sacred."

    Unless you define your god as "a fertile female,"
    then I don't know how you can seriously claim your
    god creates life. Or have you recently found even
    a single shred of proof to back your claims up
    about the origin of life?

    I'm not trying to start a religious flame war
    again, but in one corner we have some facts, and
    in the other corner we've got some books written
    by religious (not scientific) people thousands of
    years ago and transcribed/translated a million
    times throughout the years.

    You're entitled to your opinions, and you're
    entitled not to mess with genetics if you don't
    want to, but why would you think it's OK to
    impose your beliefs against geneticism in order
    to prevent SOMEONE ELSE from working on it? Are
    you afraid your god will punish you for what
    someone else is doing?

    While you may consider genetics "playing god,"
    I merely consider it another scientific step
    towards understanding the origin of life and how
    the universe works.

    "The problem with tinkering with life is that we don't really understand it."

    Duh! That's the whole point of these experiments
    with genetics ... to learn more. Humans are
    constantly striving to learn more, even about
    taboo subjects. I remember a few years ago, some
    guy named Galileo was persecuted for his
    scientific beliefs and discoveries, because they
    were taboo. Today, most of us laugh at the fools
    in the Church that condemned him for claiming the
    Earth was not the center of the universe. I'd say
    your frame of reference is a bit too biased if you
    can't see the parallel here.

    That's the problem with the world today ... the
    people trying to impose "morality" usually have
    limited perspectives.

    Personally, I'd rather learn as much as I can
    while I've still got another 50 good years left
    on this Pale Blue Dot.

    You may enjoy standing scared in the dark, but
    I'd prefer we light the candle of science whenever
    possible.

    -WW

    (Cool, two Sagan references in one post.)

    --
    Once there was a time when religion ruled the world.
  • What I want to know is what monsters are going to re-appear after this latest Japanese radiation leak. Mothra? Godzilla? Gamera? Ghidorah? Gyaos? Rhodan?

    When that happens we can clone something REALLY impressive.

  • by Coda (22101) on Saturday October 02, 1999 @06:23PM (#1643208) Homepage
    If we start bringing back extinct species, what will happen to our outlook on extinction. We're pretty damn conscienceless when it comes to wiping species off the face of the earth. If we can bring them back at will, will we kill off even more species?

    "Oh, go ahead and chop down the forest. We've got DNA samples of just about everything here..."

    And then of course, who's going to bring back the ugly stuff? It's find and dandy to bring back the dodo, the spotted-buffeted snow pika, etc. Are we going to bring back the blunt-nosed, slime-covered ass worm once we kill it off? Or are we going to stick solely with creatures that look cute?

    While this is an interesting science experiment, I think the resources could be better applied: Oct. 12th is Six Billion People Day. In 1960 we had 3 billion. We've doubled in 40 years. Better, cheaper, safer contraceptives would make the world a better place. Wooly mammoths would make one zoo a lot of money.

    Let's try to keep things in perspective here.

  • Damnit, you got my mind working. Now I'm gonna have to go code a mod of counter-strike. SWAT Cavemen vs. Mammoth.
  • I think that's a fantastic outlook on life. It won't work! Nevermind the fact that it hasn't been tried yet. The genetic code must certainly be damaged. There's no proof of it, but dammit, it just won't work!

    We wouldn't have the technology to do this if everyone immediately assumed it wouldn't work. Genetics would be nowhere. Along with most of medical science and computers/electricity/etc. Think a little, please... We didn't get to where we are today by only doing things we -knew- would work. We tried and failed, tried and failed, and finally tried and succeeded.
  • Why are there polar bears in California? Penguins in Arizona? Why are there Senators in cold climates, you'd assume that they'd merely become sedentary and have to bask on rocks all day.
  • by Breace (33955) on Saturday October 02, 1999 @06:13PM (#1643214) Homepage
    Of course, they could just fill in those gaps with DNA from frogs...

    Well, a Mammoth that can leap two and a half miles? Sounds like the people in Siberia better get their roofs strengthend.

    Breace.
  • by Zurk (37028)
    why dont they resurrect plants first ? I would think the medicinal value (more drugs etc) of plants which are extinct far outweighs the benefits of cloning a mammal or a dino.
  • I don't think so, haven't you hear that song "You Can't Splice Wooly Mamoth and Pot Belly Pig DNA"? If you want to try to get them in the mood, go ahead. I shudder to think of the amount of booze a wooly mamoth could hold though and I shudder even more when I think of what happens when it all comes back up.

  • What exactly qualifies as a good reason to be extinct? Climate change? Having your food and or area taken over by another animal?

    What is the difference in whether that animal is man or some shitty rodant that started eating your eggs or another predator that was simply better than you?

    The whole guilt issue over extinction caused by man is really just another ego trip trying to justify us feeling special and different in some way. Well we are not: we are just another element of nature, playing its game like a million species before us.

    Its a shame when an animal goes extinct because there is much we can learn from, and of, that animal. This goes for any extinction - naked monkeys involved or not.

    -
    /. is like a steer's horns, a point here, a point there and a lot of bull in between.
  • by Hobbex (41473) on Saturday October 02, 1999 @04:29PM (#1643221)

    So, fellow /.-ers, do we hear any takers for the position of computer nerd who builds system only he can manage and then sells everyone out only to be killed by a rather small acid spitting woolly mamoth?

    On the bright side you get to work in a cool 3D GUI and you can write code so sloppy that an eight year old kid can crack it!

    -
    /. is like a steer's horns, a point here, a point there and a lot of bull in between.
  • by quadong (52475) on Saturday October 02, 1999 @06:27PM (#1643232) Homepage
    So once all diseases are cured, we can feel free to pursue non-vital research. Face it, there will never be a time when we all live forever. There will always be things to kill us. Remember, just 100 years ago, it was much worse. Then, infectious diseases were the big killer. Now that we have brought those mostly under control, other problems have become relevant. Just supposing we bring AIDS, cancer and parkinsons under control, there will still be a #1 killer, and when we beat that, there will still be a #1 killer. We can never beat all diseases. I want to prolong my life as much as the next guy, and I support research for these causes, but they should not be an all-encompasing obsession. We are mortal, people die, why not explore the life we have while we have it?
  • by Cuthalion (65550) on Saturday October 02, 1999 @04:49PM (#1643238) Homepage
    The only ethical problem I see with this (assuming it works) is that they'll have created an animal that they don't really know how to care for very well.

    Does this really affect anything? Maybe we'll learn more about mammoths. What harm could it do? Well, the worst thing that seems likely to happen is that we make a unhealthy and unhappy mammoth, which would be unfortunate, but doesn't seem inherently evil to RISK that fate.

    For whatever reason mammoths died out, I don't think it makes a big difference. We're not restoring their species or anything - one specimen would hardly be adequate to repopulate anything, you need at least two (for mammals). I don't really think that matters though. If they died out because they're ill-adapted, it's going to be expensive to keep them alive. If they think it's worth it, I don't object to them expending their resources on this project.


  • If we can clone a Wooly Mamoth why cant we cross the DNA of a Pot Belly Pig and a Wooly Mamoth and get a Pot Belly Mamoth! Muhahaha! And better yet give it 2 asses!
  • I admire the sentiments, but you're a bit misinformed about the funding priorities of the US goverment.

    In 1999 the National Institutes of Health received a *15* percent budget increase by $2 billion to $15.6 billion. The requested increase for 2000 is 'only' 2.1 percent but the chair of the House subcommittee that funds NIH was quoted as saying he intended to keep NIH on course to double its budget over five years (Nature 03-04-1999, sorry no URL with free access.)

    R&D expenditure in the US on biomedical science is already twice that (per capita) in Europe and rising still faster. At least the NIH have their priorities right - maybe Europeans should follow suit?
  • >who's going to bring back the ugly stuff?

    Good point. We could end up in a world full of only beautiful animals, just one goddamn peacock species after another...

    OTOH, there's plenty of ugly people in that six billion. If you really want them butt-ugly critters, just buy your local genetic engineer a few rounds. Once the beer goggles are on, he'll clone anything. Just don't buy'm too many, he might not be able to get the DNA up into the oocyte.
  • /.post#1

    I bet the black helicopters are behind this. The big Wolly Mamouth, Mr. Shufulufagas, comes to visit cute little school kids and out pops drunken waco ATF agents, smoking Ruby Ridge cigars, and HRF gun the local school LAN.

    /.post#2

    I bet Bill Gates is behind all this. Wolly 1.0b is just vaporware to mask that fact the Micros~1 doesn't have coherant software service portal stratagy.

    /.post#3

    I hear Linus is going to incoporate OpenWolly in 2.3 ;)

  • If science _really_ is ready to bring back extint animals, it's a shame it's not focusing all it's efforts (and resources) on not letting people (esp. children, of course) die of chickenpox (or any stupid and easily preventable desease you'd like to imagine).

    Yes, but different scientists always have and always will focus on different things. I understand what you're saying, but you can apply this to any situation, such as "Why do we waste money on a space program when we don't have a cure for AIDS?" I don't think you can really look at scientists as a monolithic group who would be better off if they all focused on one problem at a time.
  • I heard of a similar project before for Tasmanian wolves, and that particular article brought up a good point. Why spend all this money on the possibility of bringing back one species, on a limited basses, instead of putting that money into saving many of the spices we already have that are near extinction? I mean it's pretty much common sense that saving a spices that already exists is going to cost less than a spices already dead, and that kind of money could go a long way for that cause.

    I guess, like a certain Spealberg movie mentioned here a few times before, it's purely capitalistic. They care nothing about what they are doing and just want to make money.
  • by MaximumBob (97339) on Saturday October 02, 1999 @04:28PM (#1643270)
    It's an interesting idea, and there's no good reason not to do it, but it won't work. cloned animals tend to show a lot of genetic defects in the first place. An animal that has been dead this long, even frozen, has almost certainly taken some genetic damage. That could only magnify the problems that exist with cloning live animals.

    Of course, they could just fill in those gaps with DNA from frogs...

  • I can't wait till we start mass producing these bad boys. Imagine all the new products! McMammoth burgers, Mammoth leather jackets, Mammoth fur coats, carved Mammoth tusks, the "new Buick LeSabre, with all Mammoth interior", the list is endless. I can't wait for the circus to come to town and have mammoth rides for the kiddies. And I really want a lucky mammoth foot key chain.

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