Will woolly mammoths stride the Siberian plains once again? DNA samples from an exceptionally well preserved extinct Mammuthus, found in the snowy wastes of Siberia, have raised the prospect of cloning.
But scientists are divided about raising the species from the dead, 10,000 years after becoming extinct.
Russian scientists were amazed at the condition of the mammoth, found embedded in a chunk of ice on a remote Siberian island. The samples were so well preserved that fresh blood was found within muscle tissue.
The team used carbon dating techniques to reveal the animal had walked the Earth around 40,000 years ago and raised hopes that it could be cloned.
Nicknamed Buttercup, the adult female was discovered in May 2013. At 2.5 metres tall, she is not much larger than an Asian elephant. Incredibly, three legs, most of her body, some of her head and her trunk had survived. She was in her fifties when she became trapped in a peat bog and was eaten by predators, scientists believe.
A Channel 4 film, to be shown next weekend, follows Buttercup’s autopsy in Siberia, and the extraction of high-quality DNA and cells for future use by Sooam, a South Korean biotech company.
The Korean researchers hope to find a cell with a complete nucleus, containing an intact genome.
“We’re getting an unprecedented amount of access to mammoth samples through this collaboration,” said Insung Hwang, a geneticist at Sooam.
“DNA has been distributed to multiple institutes for scientific purposes,” he added.
Dr Tori Herridge, a palaeobiologist based at the Natural History Museum in London said: “The guys from South Korea, who are collecting tissue for cloning, were excited because the better preserved the tissue, the greater their hopes were that there would be some intact DNA.”
However she warned that the dream of bringing the woolly mammoth back to life would be a cruel nightmare for their modern- day descendant, the elephant… see more
source: Independent UK