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'The power of the taiga... perhaps only migratory birds know where it ends'
Anton Chekhov, 1890

Woolly mammoths could be living in Siberia 'within a decade or two'

By The Siberian Times reporter
17 March 2013

It sounds like a real-life Jurassic Park, but the woolly mammoth could be stomping the Siberian taiga in less than 20 years.

Walking Siberia again? Sculptures of wolly mammoths in Khanty Mansiysk, Siberia. Picture: The Siberian Times 

So says Hendrik Poinar, an associate professor at McMaster University in Canada, who claims that the creatures will be genetically similar if not identical to the extinct species. Harvard University geneticist George Church agreed, rejecting theories that the mammoth died out too long ago to extract useable DNA from remains found in the permafrost. 

It should be possible to build up an exact picture of the mammoth genome by analysing the DNA in Siberian burial grounds, which can then be used as a template to edit and rewrite the genome of the closely-related Asian elephant until it matches the mammoth, he said. 

'A mammoth in the permafrost will have something like half its DNA intact', said Poinar forecasting a wait of as little as decade or two to see the re-birth of a species that became extinct  some 4,000 years ago on Wrangel Island, between the East Siberian and Chukchi seas.

Elsewhere the creatures died out earlier. 

'In fact, the mammoth genome is almost fully complete', said Poinar. 

'We can actually pull out and rejig all these small mammoth fragments and match them against the genome of an Asian or African elephant chromosome and find all the little points of difference.

'So that means we can take Asian elephant chromosomes, modify them to match that of a mammoth and then create an embryo by inseminating an Asian elephant egg. It would be long and arduous but eventually we would have something that looked like a mammoth. It would not be an exact replica but it would look and feel much like a woolly mammoth did'.

Yuka wolly mammoth Siberia

Scientists working with the remains of Yuka, woolly mammoth, found in Yakutian permafrost in 2012. Picture: Gennady Boeskorov

He predicted the most likely habitats for the re-born mammoths would be in north-eastern Russia and northern Canada.

'There are swathes of habitat in Siberia and the Yukon that could actually house a mammoth', he told the Sunday Times in the UK.  

But he also raised a questions that scientists - and governments - must face as laboratories gains the knowledge to bring extinct species back to life: should we?

'There is a part of the boy in me which would love to see these majestic creatures walk across the permafrost in the north once again, but I do have to admit that part of the adult in me does wonder whether or not we should,' he said. 

Currently, South Korean scientists working with Russian partners are believed to be in the lead in bringing assisting the woolly mammoth back to life. 

Comments (6)

Personally I think a Saber-tooth Tiger would be more impressive of an achievement.
A Wooly Mammoth would be awesome yet, I fear the few individuals set free would soon be killed by Big Game Hunters seeking a trophy or indigenous peoples seeking food.
A Saber-tooth Tiger would be a bit more challenging as well as a predator which would dominate the food chain, including wolves.
Richard, Bridger MT - USA
12/11/2014 11:03
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What about California Grizzly Bears? Can you bring those back too?
Aidan, United States of Amerca
01/05/2013 01:20
3
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If they bring back Wooly Mammoths, they should also bring back the California Grizzly Bear
Josh, California
01/05/2013 01:18
3
0
I hope it happens along with wooly Rhinos, and eventually the recently extinct, Dodos and Moas and Cuban macaws, and Ivory-billed and Imperial wood peckers, and then Brontosaurs and Triceratops and a few uv the cooler Herbivorous. Maybe then with a few of the big guys about. We would learn to hav a bit more respect, quit being the planetary rude kids and bullies, and be reminded daily uv the beauty of respect. moving our freeways and roads making allowances and plan for the migratory routes uv our planetary brethren, buffalo elephants and all them which we share the planet with. Then maybe my life could stop being Hell and i could actually start living. My earliest memories had to do with us humans being connected, via media, internet tech. etc and living taking care of the planet and the rare and injured critters, as wl as each other, I could actually be an help rather than the burden Human-society is and be a Humane Being, a planetary Gardener.
Adan, Washington St.
25/03/2013 12:24
3
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hilarious if they manage it... and quite scary
sceptic, Russia
19/03/2013 01:44
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you've got to be kidding! these South Korean scientists have been branded controversial ages ago, who do you believe here. and anyway why bother?? as if there is not enough problems to solve with climate change and other eco-issues. really people you do amaze me
Simon, Canada now
18/03/2013 22:43
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