Woolly mammoths have sprung back into the news again in recent times, with news reports suggesting that they are “on a verge of resurrection” and will be back from extinction within two years. The statement was made by George Church, a lead scientist for the “Woolly Mammoth Revival” project at Harvard University.
However, in the wake of the news, many other commentators have read into the claims and they think that the reports of the mammoth’s imminent revival is fake news.
The woolly mammoth were closely related to today’s Indian elephants. They were covered in a thick coat of brown hair to keep them warm in their home of the frigid Arctic plains. They even had fur-lined ears, with curved tusks used for fighting and digging in order to survive. They were extinct almost 10,000 years ago, however some of the bodies have been preserved almost intact. They were around 13 ft tall and weighed approximately 6 tons.
As many mammoth corpses are so well preserved scientists have been able to extract DNA from the animals. The DNA could be used to clone woolly mammoths, bringing them back from extinction. Some objections are that the mammoth’s habitat isn't what it was when the creature roamed the Earth, so where would it live? George Church have used a gene-editing technique to insert the genes from the mammoth into the DNA of elephant skin cells. This is far from cloning , however, but it is a first step to manipulating the DNA found in mammoth corpses.
The woolly mammoth would not be the first species to be revived after being extinct. The world’s first de-extinct animal was born in 2003 in a laboratory in Spain. It was a type of wild mountain goat called a bucardo. Although the animal only lived for only a few minutes, the progress shown was exciting for scientists.
The world is warming, habitats are being lost, places are becoming more polluted and the biodiversity crisis is deepening. For all its worth, de-extinction is worthy of our attention because of the potential it has to help repair ailing ecosystems.