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

samzenpus posted more than 2 years ago | from the pleistocene-park dept.

Japan 302

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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302 comments

Ice Age Park (5, Funny)

alen (225700) | more than 2 years ago | (#38283292)

Just like Jurassic Park, but colder

Re:Ice Age Park (1, Funny)

KennyG944 (682920) | more than 2 years ago | (#38283384)

OMG! They're gonna clone Roseanne Barr?

Re:Ice Age Park (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38283464)

the roseanne ref is almost as old as the mammoth :)

Re:Ice Age Park (4, Interesting)

bobcat7677 (561727) | more than 2 years ago | (#38283420)

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?

Re:Ice Age Park (5, Funny)

GNious (953874) | more than 2 years ago | (#38283558)

Mix with current age elephants and unix-gurues - should make for diversity, while keeping the hairyness.

Re:Ice Age Park (4, Interesting)

Hentes (2461350) | more than 2 years ago | (#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.

Re:Ice Age Park (2)

Hadlock (143607) | more than 2 years ago | (#38283732)

That's an interesting question! People regularly throw around the number 40 as being the minimum number of people to keep a diverse gene pool going, could that roughly be true for mammoths too? Could they splice in enough genetic material from other partial strands of mammoth DNA to get 40 complete, but slightly different mammoths cloned and breeding? And second, where are you going to find enough space and money to house your herd of mammoth mammoths?

Re:Ice Age Park (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38283944)

40? I thought it was between 1700 and 2700?

Re:Ice Age Park (3, Informative)

MozeeToby (1163751) | more than 2 years ago | (#38284212)

According to the wiki, 150-200 randomly chosen individuals will be stable for 80 generations or more. But then, the Amish were founded with around 200 members originally, and while they are certainly still around they have much higher rates of genetic disorders (and then again, many of those 200 were probably related before they isolated themselves). It's not an easy question to answer.

Re:Ice Age Park (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38283754)

You need more than 1 pair. 1 pair will get offspring, but if you plan to breed brothers and sisters, you won't be in business for too long.

Re:Ice Age Park (2)

Alphadecay27 (1277022) | more than 2 years ago | (#38283830)

They can already insert genes from a completely different species into e.g. a cat to make it glow: http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/27338236/ns/today-today_pets_and_animals/t/me-yow-cat-has-glow-good-cause/#.Tt5uaRfNmeU [msn.com] I imagine they could identify the elephant-like portion of the genome and vary that using different "donors" to create diversity/swap sex. I think initially they would probably just clone one animal and sell it to zoos across the world. Setting up a prehistoric park that mimics the animal's natural habitat makes for a good story but there is no economic advantage. A simple zoo enclosure would cost less and be more accessible to visitors.

Re:Ice Age Park (2)

devitto (230479) | more than 2 years ago | (#38283880)

Behaviour. The genome is are the 'building blocks' of the creature, and like building blocks, they don't tell you in isolation how warm the building is, if the building is noisy or quiet, or if the building lives happily with sabre-tooth tigers....

It's a totally new kind of nature vs nurture experiment, and a step beyond 'Dolly'.
Dolly and her twin both grew up with other sheep, went 'baa' and ate grass - but will this mammoth behave like a elephant if kept with elephants? What if it's not influenced by other animals including humans ?

Ligers are a good example of how a creature's DNA influences it's behaviour more than 'learned' social aspects.
Liger keepers say they are 'confused' and never 'fit in' with Tigers (even when mating is an option) or Lions (as part of a normal pride)

Re:Ice Age Park (2)

flibbidyfloo (451053) | more than 2 years ago | (#38283918)

Well, have we learned anything from living Coelacanths that we didn't already know from their fossils? Other than that they weren't actually extinct, I mean.

Re:Ice Age Park (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38284096)

Just splice ALL the partials into copies of a complete genome.

Re:Ice Age Park (4, Insightful)

StikyPad (445176) | more than 2 years ago | (#38284146)

Or you could just clone the one indefinitely. It's already being done in other animals. The important of genetic diversity should not be forgotten, though in the case of an extinct animal, it's probably not the primary concern.

I wonder (4, Funny)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 2 years ago | (#38283294)

What the giants will have to say about that.

Re:I wonder (2)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38283348)

Only when we clone the giants, we will know for sure.

Re:I wonder (2)

sexconker (1179573) | more than 2 years ago | (#38283544)

What the giants will have to say about that.

Who gives a shit what the giants say?
FUS RO DAH
FUS RO DAH
FUS RO DAH
FUS RO DAH

Re:I wonder (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38283668)

I actually saw a giant kick a dragon's ass once. True story.

Putin... (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38283322)

Will have shot it five minutes later...

All this in the mist of global warming. (4, Funny)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 2 years ago | (#38283330)

Lets give birth to an Ice Age animal during earths period of global high heat. They couldn't survive the end of the last ice age. So lets bring them to life and stick them in a post/anti-Ice Age environment... Brilliant!

Re:All this in the mist of global warming. (4, Funny)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 2 years ago | (#38283352)

Each one will be issued a heavy-duty electric razor and a bottle of SPF-50 sunscreen, along with an umbrella in one of five ridiculous novelty prints.

Re:All this in the mist of global warming. (4, Funny)

Samantha Wright (1324923) | more than 2 years ago | (#38283934)

You had me at "one of five ridiculous novelty prints." Where does one apply to be a mammoth? Is there a BSD convention nearby?

Re:All this in the mist of global warming. (4, Insightful)

0123456 (636235) | more than 2 years ago | (#38283450)

Lets give birth to an Ice Age animal during earths period of global high heat.

Today isn't particularly hot, even by the standards of the time since the last ice age, and much of Russia is often extremely cold.

In any case, the next ice age should be along at some point in the next few thousand years, so we might as well get prepared. A mammoth will be much more useful as transport than a Prius when the planet is covered with mile-thick ice and the temperature is permanently below zero.

Re:All this in the mist of global warming. (5, Funny)

sexconker (1179573) | more than 2 years ago | (#38283564)

Lets give birth to an Ice Age animal during earths period of global high heat.

Today isn't particularly hot, even by the standards of the time since the last ice age, and much of Russia is often extremely cold.

In any case, the next ice age should be along at some point in the next few thousand years, so we might as well get prepared. A mammoth will be much more useful as transport than a Prius when the planet is covered with mile-thick ice and the temperature is permanently below zero.

Fucking Starks and their "winter is coming" doom and gloom bullshit.

Re:All this in the mist of global warming. (2)

magarity (164372) | more than 2 years ago | (#38283904)

A mammoth will be much more useful as transport than a Prius when the planet is covered with mile-thick ice and the temperature is permanently below zero.

Wouldn't a tauntaun be a better choice?

Re:All this in the mist of global warming. (4, Funny)

MikeyO (99577) | more than 2 years ago | (#38283506)

They couldn't survive the end of the last ice age

I thought they were done in by humans hunting with clovis point spears. They should be fine now, nobody uses spears anymore.

Re:All this in the mist of global warming. (2)

elgeeko.com (2472782) | more than 2 years ago | (#38283898)

That's because we haven't had any Mammoths to hunt. Soon the whole spear industry will be booming again. I'm not sure, but I think IBM holds the patent rights and collects royalties from anyone who gives anyone else the shaft, which should cover all future spear or shaft based technologies. I hear Microsoft and Apple both pay billions just for the right to give anyone the shaft at any time and the US government pays in the trillions.

Re:All this in the mist of global warming. (1)

jd (1658) | more than 2 years ago | (#38284308)

Yes, yes, but you're forgetting that the body armour business will sky-rocket. Can you imagine how much they'd be able to charge a Mammoth for a spear-proof suit?

Re:All this in the mist of global warming. (3, Interesting)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 2 years ago | (#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.

Re:All this in the mist of global warming. (2)

Hentes (2461350) | more than 2 years ago | (#38283712)

Mammuts became extinct because of human overhunting. Also, the Earth has a great thermal diversity, so you just have to put them north of there original location. And if that's not enough, shaving off their fur will prevent them from overheating. At least the polar bears in the zoo of my city manage to survive each summer this way.

Re:All this in the mist of global warming. (3, Informative)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | more than 2 years ago | (#38283772)

Siberia gets down to -40C in the winter, it's cold enough with plenty of margin for global warming.

Re:All this in the mist of global warming. (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38283842)

Lets give birth to an Ice Age animal during earths period of global high heat. They couldn't survive the end of the last ice age. So lets bring them to life and stick them in a post/anti-Ice Age environment... Brilliant!

We are currently in an ice age [wikipedia.org]. Mammoths died out very recently about 4,500 years ago. The world was pretty much the same back then.

Kinki University? (5, Funny)

cashman73 (855518) | more than 2 years ago | (#38283336)

Now, I really don't want to know WHY they're cloning a mammoth,. . .

Re:Kinki University? (2)

Baloroth (2370816) | more than 2 years ago | (#38283418)

Yep, the Japanese get... that, and the Russians get woolly mammoth coats! Win-win!

Re:Kinki University? (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38283474)

The Japanese probably want to eat the mammoth.

Re:Kinki University? (2)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#38283502)

The Japanese probably want to eat the mammoth.

It would make a good iron chef episode.

I wonder if it tastes more like beef or chicken? My bet is on beef.

Re:Kinki University? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38283646)

Trunk porn.

Re:Kinki University? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38283692)

It's the 21st century donkey?

Preparing for the coming Ice Age (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38283396)

Well, since anthropomorphic global warming is causing the melting of Greenlands ice sheet, which will then cause an Ice Age in Europe, this seems apropos.

Re:Preparing for the coming Ice Age (3, Funny)

glassbeat (1035452) | more than 2 years ago | (#38284038)

Well, since anthropomorphic global warming is causing the melting of Greenlands ice sheet, which will then cause an Ice Age in Europe, this seems apropos.

Don't anthropomorphize global warming. It hates it when you do that.

Mr. President... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38283412)

Mr. President we have a Mammoth gap.

fewer attempts than a successful Soviet Mars Probe (1)

peter303 (12292) | more than 2 years ago | (#38283444)

All of 17(?) of the Soviet Mars probes failed to make it there or failed shortly after arrival.

Wired (5, Insightful)

kodiaktau (2351664) | more than 2 years ago | (#38283458)

Wired Mag had their article about this back in September. [wired.com]
I believe this to be an ethical issue that really needs to be thought through before folks go off tinkering with genes. As the article calls out, do we know what the impact to an ecosystem where a species like this is released? What about natural predation? In a broader sense, what is the real value in cloning something that was selectively removed from the environment? Hell we cannot even keep from releasing invasive species to control other species without completely screwing it up. This process does nothing more than allow a scientist to study an animal that doesn't exist by bringing it into existence.

Re:Wired (3, Insightful)

ChrisMaple (607946) | more than 2 years ago | (#38283686)

Mainland mammoths were killed off by humanity before, without really trying. We can do it again. It will not become an expanding species with a notable effect on the ecosystem unless we help it to do so. In short, don't get upset over a non-issue.

(I say mainland because I've read that the last mammoths were isolated on an island and died off after many generations of becoming smaller to match a declining food supply.)

Re:Wired (3, Informative)

socrplayr813 (1372733) | more than 2 years ago | (#38283730)

All of that is extremely unlikely to be an issue, considering they only have one sample of DNA that's any good. You would need AT least a male and female to start producing more mammoths in any kind of normal fashion, and you'd need a good number more than that to provide enough genetic diversity for them to be healthy.

While it's POSSIBLE we could eventually resurrect the species, it's unlikely, and we're not even close to that yet.

Re:Wired (2)

Fallingcow (213461) | more than 2 years ago | (#38283812)

I'd be more worried if they were cloning ancient, long-extinct bacteria or even rodents.

Megafauna? People we pay for the privilege of helping make them re-extinct if they become a problem. Even a half-assed elimination effort could likely wipe them out in short order. Hell, just not protecting something like that would probably doom it.

Re:Wired (1)

kodiaktau (2351664) | more than 2 years ago | (#38283884)

I hadn't thought about bacteria and the like - that makes for a scary source here. Also it is worth noting that if we only have on good DNA we don't know if that DNA is good or bad compared to others.

Re:Wired (1)

cyn1c77 (928549) | more than 2 years ago | (#38284210)

Wired Mag had their article about this back in September. [wired.com]

I believe this to be an ethical issue that really needs to be thought through before folks go off tinkering with genes. As the article calls out, do we know what the impact to an ecosystem where a species like this is released? What about natural predation? In a broader sense, what is the real value in cloning something that was selectively removed from the environment? Hell we cannot even keep from releasing invasive species to control other species without completely screwing it up. This process does nothing more than allow a scientist to study an animal that doesn't exist by bringing it into existence.

The process does a lot more than that! It shows that we have the potential to actually bring extinct wild animals back into existence for ANY reason. Perfecting that capability is tremendously exciting from a scientific and evolutionary standpoint.

Obviously there are ethical implications. Like with other capabilities (moon landing, nuclear weapons, fracking), they will be debated as the technology is actively developed. Is that the "right" approach? Well, that's an ethical issue unto itself.

Are you really worried about the accidental release of a wooly mammoth into the wild? If so, it's probably be pretty easy to find.

I misread the word Many as Mad. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38283514)

It made more sense...

Human cloning is unethical (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38283522)

and why would they want to clone yo momma anyway?

Mammoth in 5 years? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38283524)

Right, and we'll have strong AI in 10 years & fusion power in 20 years - as it has always been.

Call me back... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38283576)

when they clone the Giant Beaver

Re:Call me back... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38283718)

Insert <Kim Kardashian> joke here

mammoths are dumb (5, Funny)

MikeyO (99577) | more than 2 years ago | (#38283580)

Mammoths are dumb, If they are going to pick a species to bring back from extinction, they should pick something cooler, like a mermaid or a unicorn or something.

Re:mammoths are dumb (1)

lennier1 (264730) | more than 2 years ago | (#38283630)

Saber-toothed cats!!!

Re:mammoths are dumb (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38283984)

Lightsaber-toothed cats! 18 times better than Sharks with frickin' Lazors.

Re:mammoths are dumb (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38284090)

No no, saber-toothed squirrels! Long live Skrat!

"within 5 years"? (1)

plerner (2459036) | more than 2 years ago | (#38283616)

It means they know how it should be done, but not how to actually do it. It the mean time, who wants to invest?

Sponsers (1)

SnarfQuest (469614) | more than 2 years ago | (#38283638)

I wonder if McDonalds or Burger King are sponsering this?

Or maybe, we'll be able to order a bucket of Kentucky Fried Mammoth in the near future.

But will we colonize the universe with these? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38283656)

And if not, why not?

Noooo (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38283714)

Jesus would not approve.

God took the mammoths away from us during the flood, so we have no right to bring them back.

If I'm not mistaken... (1)

NerveGas (168686) | more than 2 years ago | (#38283724)

... I've been hearing this sort of claim for at least a decade. At first I got excited, but now, I take the position of "Wake me up if it ever happens."

Seeing how much people will pay to hunt certain exotic species already, I imagine that you could make terrific money owning your own private mammoth preserve.

McDonalds menu (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38283752)

Can't wait to roll up to drive thru and order my super sized mammoth wopper with taradactyl fries.

Why? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38283784)

Getting gene information from DNA of living beings is quite difficult and not even close to being perfected. How do they expect to get this information for an extinct animal?
Also what the heck is the point of this? How does this help mankind? These animals are extinct for a reason!

Nature Finds a Way (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38283836)

OK, why does this sound like a bad idea? Could it be that we can't seem to take care of the animals that aren't extinct? Are those Mammoth shortribs the waitress hangs on the side of Fred's car?

This and Fusion Power (4, Informative)

paleo2002 (1079697) | more than 2 years ago | (#38283998)

Every few years someone announces that they'll clone a mammoth within the next few years. I remember writing a science report about this in the 6th grade, around 1990-91. It'd be great if they finally do it, but I'm not holding my breath.

I'm sure they'd make good eating, though.

Nucleic DNA is not the whole story (4, Interesting)

nut (19435) | more than 2 years ago | (#38284046)

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.

Re:Nucleic DNA is not the whole story (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38284258)

Yes, but once you've got an approximation of a mammoth, you can send it back in time for an hour to get knocked up by a real mammoth, bring it back to the present, and have a baby mammoth in 9 mammoth-months.

Old news (3, Informative)

uigrad_2000 (398500) | more than 2 years ago | (#38284064)

They were 5 years away, one year ago. [pcworld.com]

So, it seems that after finding the "holy grail" of the missing genome, they have been set back by one year.

I did a lot of research about this back in January, when they first said that it was 5 years away. I heard a genome scientist interviewed on the radio, and he said that the resulting baby will be at most half Mammoth. It will have more elephant characteristics than mammoth, and will most likely be non-fertile, but it is still an important step to eventually having a fertile mammoth clone.

So, as much as I'd like to imagine mammoths in the zoo for my children to see, the truth is that we are still far from that point.

Russian Mammoth Burgers! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38284184)

Who cares about genetic diversity! We've got the tasty new burger made from an extinct species!

Eat all you want, we'll make more!

Just because something can be done... (1)

Dcnjoe60 (682885) | more than 2 years ago | (#38284276)

Just because something can be done, doesn't mean it should be done. While resurrecting a long ago extinct species might be neat, think of all of the talent and research dollars going into it, when instead those resources could be used to help solve real world problems, like increased crop yields, alternative energy sources, finding cures, etc. None of those have the wow factor of producing another cloned mammal, particularly an extinct one, but all of them would be absolutely more meaningful to the human condition.

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