As an ecologist of ice age giants, I long ago came to terms with the fact that I will never look my study organisms in the eye.
I will never observe black-bear-sized beavers through binoculars in their natural habitats, build experimental exclosures to test the effects of mastodons on plants, or even observe a giant ground sloth in a zoo.
As a conservation paleoecologist, I study the natural experiments of the past—like climate change and extinction—to better understand the ecology of a warming, fragmented world. Admitedly, part of the appeal of the ice age past is the challenge of reconstructing long-disappeared landscapes from fragments like pollen, tiny fragments of charcoal, and bits of leaves preserved in lakes. In the absence of mammoths, for example, I rely instead on spores of fungi that once inhabited their dung.
De-extinction could change that. On Friday, a group of geneticists, conservationists, journalists, and others convened in Washington, D.C. to discuss resurrecting extinct species, including the woolly mammoth. De-extinction sounds like science fiction, but it’s rooted in very real conservation concerns. With the sequencing of the woolly mammoth genome complete and recent advancements in biotechnology, the question of whether to clone extinct species like mastodons, dodos, or the Shasta ground sloth is rapidly becoming more of a question of should, rather than how. The latter isn’t straightforward, and involves the integration of a number of cutting edge disciplines, but I’d like to focus on the former: should we clone woolly mammoths?
A growing problem I’ve had (and one which Brian Switek raises in a recent post at National Geographic) is that the de-extinction proposals are Big Ideas, but they they’re often shallow when it comes to ecology. Even the concept of “de-extinction” itself is misleading. Successfully cloning an animal is one thing; rescuing it from the black hole-like pull of extinction is another. Decades of conservation biology research has tried to determine the careful calculus of how many individuals and how much land are needed for a species to survive without major intervention, accounting for its needs for food, habitat, and other resources.
Mammoths have been extinct on continents for over ten thousand years (though dwarf versions survived into the time of the ancient Egyptians on isolated Arctic islands). Even so, the fossil record has yielded rich clues about ecology. All ethical considerations aside, from a conservation biology standpoint, what does it mean to be a mammoth?
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Cloning Woolly Mammoths
- Scientists move step forward in cloning woolly mammothon January 17, 2022 at 4:00 pm
KINOKAWA, Wakayama Prefecture--Scientists confirmed signs of activity in the nuclei of cells extracted from the 28,000-year-old remains of a woolly mammoth, fostering hopes of resurrecting the ...
- Scientists Say They Could Bring Back Woolly Mammoths. But Maybe They Shouldn'ton January 8, 2022 at 11:00 pm
Colossal's expressed aim of allowing woolly mammoths to "walk the Arctic tundra again" by the ... which last year managed the first-ever clone of an endangered species, the black-footed ferret, have ...
- Scientists looking at bringing extinct cave lions back to lifeon October 26, 2021 at 7:26 pm
"Traditional cloning, when a living cell nucleus is ... Read also Scientists make progress in recreating woolly mammoth — South Korean researcher According to earlier reports, researchers ...
- Woolly Mammothon September 13, 2021 at 10:56 am
The woolly mammoth (mammuthus primigenius ... it has been proposed the species could be recreated through cloning, but this method is as yet infeasible because of the degraded state of the ...
- Weird Scienceon October 16, 2020 at 10:58 am
study claims Terrifying ancient killer crocodile was 24 feet long with teeth as sharp as a T-Rex's Billionaire Paypal founder Peter Thiel 'funds scheme to resurrect the woolly mammoth' The human ...
- JURASSIC PARKon August 25, 2020 at 9:31 am
The team isn’t planning to clone the woolly mammoth. But they will use genetic engineering to make an elephant-mammoth hybrid that would resemble the extinct woolly mammoth, CNN reported.
- Lesson 4: Creative Science – Dragon Eggs Found in the Arcticon July 30, 2020 at 9:04 pm
Advances in genetics have now made it possible to cure diseases, clone organisms and even extract ... University have been working to produce a mammoth-elephant hybrid by splicing the genes of a ...
- Recipe for a Resurrectionon April 21, 2020 at 11:09 am
Each new woolly mammoth carcass to emerge from the Siberian ... the scientists conjectured that the same techniques might open the door to cloning mammoths and other extinct species preserved ...
- Scientists seek to revive woolly mammothon October 11, 2019 at 4:09 am
have begun work on resurrecting the extinct woolly mammoth, using biological material recovered from Siberian permafrost to create a clone. Jim Drury reports.
- Scientists Plan to Clone Extinct Horse Using 42,000-Year-Old Bloodon April 16, 2019 at 1:41 pm
Now, they hope that they can clone the long-dead horse back into ... who are also working to resurrect woolly mammoths, have tried and failed to grow such cells 20 different times.
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Cloning Woolly Mammoths
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- Why Creating a Company to Resurrect the Woolly Mammoth Makes Perfect Sense for Ben Lammon January 24, 2022 at 3:31 am
Lamm is tackling de-extinction at Colossal, in which gene-editing techniques are used to reverse history in an attempt to revive ecosystems. The company's gene-editing technology ...
- What you need to know about Mammoth de-extinctionon January 21, 2022 at 12:15 am
It has been more than 10,000 years since the last fur-covered woolly mammoth feet lumbered across the Arctic tundra. Once a keystone species of these frozen ecosystems, the legacy of mammoths now has ...
- Extinct Island Fauna - South Atlanticon January 19, 2022 at 6:19 am
Following on from the Atlantic island groups north of the equator (see Extinct Island Fauna - North/West Atlantic, Extinct Island Fauna - Macaronesia 1 and Extinct Island Fauna - Macaronesia 2 ), this ...
- Indian Botanic Garden’s double coconut tree faces extinctionon January 16, 2022 at 10:22 pm
The Double Coconut Tree (Lodoicea Maldivica) at the Indian Botanic Garden, which underwent a cross-country pollination in 2013 appears to be dying. Though garden authorities are hopeful that the tree ...
- Is extinction forever? A new field of biology says maybe noton January 16, 2022 at 2:00 am
Restoration biology has offered the possibility that our children might inhabit a planet that also houses dodos, wooly mammoths and passenger pigeons.
- How Coventry United battled back from brink of extinctionon January 16, 2022 at 1:40 am
Coventry went into liquidation on the 23rd December but were saved in early January. Photograph: Fabio de Paola/The Guardian The Women’s Championship club appeared doomed before Christmas but ...
- Baby turtles missing at Hyde Park as efforts increase to save them from extinctionon January 15, 2022 at 4:45 pm
Despite an abundance of fertile females, zero baby turtles have joined the 300-strong colony of native turtles at Perth's popular Hyde Park in more than 15 years — and nobody knows why.
- Priests acquitted over Extinction Rebellion train roof protest in Londonon January 14, 2022 at 1:08 pm
An MP has called for a review of the jury system after two priests who climbed on to the roof of a rush-hour train during an Extinction Rebellion protest were acquitted. The Rev Sue Parfitt ...
- Exploring the kinetics of SARS-CoV-2 Marseille-4 varianton January 11, 2022 at 6:54 am
The extinction of epidemics is linked to the development ... data were collected from the Assistance Publique-Hôpitaux de Marseille (APHM) information system. The researchers investigated the ...
- How I stay relevant in Nigeria’s competitive music industry ― De-Loonieon January 10, 2022 at 9:53 pm
Nigerian musician Okere Darington, profoundly known by his stage name De-Loonie, has disclosed how he maintains relevance in the Nigerian music industry.