Mammoths Could Make a Comeback


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Mammoth carcasses were preserved in permafrost which provided DNA to the scientists.

Juliette Fournier, Photojournalist

Ever seen Jurassic Park, the movie where scientists find a way to clone dinosaurs using their DNA and everything goes terribly wrong? Something similar is being attempted by Harvard geneticist George Church and his team. Don’t worry, they won’t be reviving the dinosaurs anytime soon (hopefully), but these scientists are attempting to achieve the “de-extinction” of the woolly mammoth. They are known to be involved with the “Woolly Mammoth Revival” project, and they hope to revive these majestic beasts with a few modifications.

In reality, if they are successful, scientists will actually have created a hybrid of the mammoth and elephant. More specifically, geneticists plan to combine the DNA of the currently living Asian elephant and the DNA of the woolly mammoth. It is no simple task and could take many years before the embryo is created. Since the Asian elephant is currently endangered, the scientists agree that they would most likely use artificial gestation. In other words, they would need to find a way to make the embryo grow without a mother since the scientists want to do their best in protecting the Asian elephants, whose numbers are already low, from being harmed through the process. This poses a huge challenge for scientists who have yet to find a way of mimicking the conditions within the womb. So far the longest amount of time they were able to achieve is 10 days with a mouse embryo, which isn’t nearly enough time for an elephant.

Scientists have also been working on modifying the elephant’s genome by splicing out part of its DNA and instead replacing it with a mammoth’s DNA. One question: How will the scientists even find the DNA to achieve this? The answer is frozen mammoth corpses that were found from which DNA was extracted. In order for an embryo to be formed, one would need to use “a single mammoth cell, coax it into becoming an embryo, and then nurture that embryo while it grows into an entire mammoth” (

The interest of creating this hybrid of a mammoth and elephant would be revolutionary for the science world. If geneticists are able to revive one species, who says they won’t be able to revive others. Paige Richey(10) comments, “Since this would be able to further advance our knowledge, I think it’s a good thing to do.” In addition, the hybrid would be able to withstand the colder temperatures of the Siberian desert due to the mammoth’s thick fur coat and fat. Professor Church clarifies, “It would be an elephant with a number of mammoth traits” ( On top of all this, creating the mammoth and elephant hybrid could actually benefit our environment. Experiments in Siberia suggest that “where large grazers are present, soil temperatures are several degrees colder than where they are absent.” Soil contains tons of carbon locked up in Arctic permafrost which, with global warming, could accelerate global warming if it were released ( Since these animals would be able to withstand the cold, they may be able to slow global warming.