Scientists trying to clone, resurrect extinct mammoth
A woolly mammoth skeleton is seen on display at the Venetian Resort Hotel Casino in Las Vegas in September 2009.
January 17th, 2011
11:31 AM ET

Scientists trying to clone, resurrect extinct mammoth

Instead of Jurassic Park, try Pleistocene Park.

A team of scientists from Japan, Russia and the United States hopes to clone a mammoth, a symbol of Earth’s ice age that ended 12,000 years ago, according to a report in Japan’s Yomiuri Shimbun. The researchers say they hope to produce a baby mammoth within six years.

The scientists say they will extract DNA from a mammoth carcass that has been preserved in a Russian laboratory and insert it into the egg cells of an African elephant in hopes of producing a mammoth embryo.

The team is being led by Akira Iritani, a professor emeritus at Kyoto University in Japan. He has built upon research from Teruhiko Wakayama of Kobe's Riken Center for Developmental Biology, who successfully cloned a mouse from cells that had been frozen for 16 years, to devise a technique to extract egg nuclei without damaging them, according to the Yomiuri report.

The U.S. researchers are in vitro fertilization experts. They, along with Kinki University professor Minoru Miyashita, will be responsible for implanting the mammoth embryo into an African elephant, the report said.

"If a cloned embryo can be created, we need to discuss, before transplanting it into the womb, how to breed [the mammoth] and whether to display it to the public," Iritani told Yomiuri. "After the mammoth is born, we'll examine its ecology and genes to study why the species became extinct and other factors."

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Filed under: Animals • Japan • Russia • U.S.
soundoff (1,588 Responses)
  1. jayman419

    Asian elephants and African elephants have a different gestation period. The umbilical cord, once formed by the blastocyst essentially attacking the uterus, transfers blood from the mother to the embryo. Chromosomal abnormalities in the fetus cause an estimated 85 percent of all miscarriages. Stable inter-species hybrids, like horse-donkey, result in sterile offspring.

    So... Nothing could ever possibly go wrong with this plan. I can't wait until they reduce them in size to be purse pets for the fashionable rich. Where can I preorder?

    January 18, 2011 at 7:12 am | Report abuse |
  2. Gale

    This world amazes me. The news starts talking about cloning mammoths and we get a bunch of buffoon's acting crazy over it. Man destroyed all the extincted animals, now the idiots are about to make us become extincted. If they can clone a mammoth, what will stop them from cloning something else that can wipe us out? They need to use their time and money on things that need it. Like feeding starving citizens and trying to get this freaking world out of debt. Geez!! Some people have become so stupid.

    January 18, 2011 at 7:20 am | Report abuse |
    • DisgruntledGrrl

      " Like feeding starving citizens" – dude:have you no idea how much meat is on a mammoth?

      January 18, 2011 at 7:22 am | Report abuse |
  3. DisgruntledGrrl

    Did they figure in atmosphere ramifications or are they hoping the "mother" will assist in developing the calf in vitro to handle it?

    January 18, 2011 at 7:21 am | Report abuse |
    • Gale

      Yeah I know how much a mammoth could feed but if we can clone a mammoth why not everything else? I mean we are just so smart lets just go ahead and screw up the world a little more. At least I know I won't be the one paying for this when I leave here. Play God and rapture his wrath. But heck what am I saying some people would rather burn in hell doing something they should not be doing, instead of doing what they need to do. Just makes no sense. But I guess everyone has their own opinions...

      January 18, 2011 at 7:32 am | Report abuse |
    • DisgruntledGrrl

      Gale – wrong entry.

      January 18, 2011 at 7:58 am | Report abuse |
    • DisgruntledGrrl

      And Gale? The Rapture was added to the book in the 50's. If it even IS in the book.

      January 18, 2011 at 7:58 am | Report abuse |
  4. Livy

    I saw this movie.

    ...didn't end well.

    January 18, 2011 at 7:49 am | Report abuse |
  5. Jack

    in times of global warming bringing an animal back to life that died out because the climate got warmer sounds like a good idea to me.

    January 18, 2011 at 8:00 am | Report abuse |
  6. Horton

    10% chance of a pink elephant.

    January 18, 2011 at 8:15 am | Report abuse |
    • Patrick crisman

      that would be tight

      January 18, 2011 at 11:55 am | Report abuse |
  7. Gale

    Applaud to DisgruntledGrrl! Since you know a lot about the book, maybe you should read up more on other things before agreeing with something so absurd. I diffidently know I disapprove of cloning bc if they start doing this with animals just wait they will be doing it on humans next. Speaking for myself I do not want a clone looking like my daughter or Dad (that just recently passed away)walking again on earth again. Animals might not be so hard see around here that have been extincted for years but how would you feel if you saw someone that has been dead for a while back up walking again even though you know it is not the same person?? If scientist can do it to animals, why should they stop there? At least that is what they will be thinking.

    January 18, 2011 at 8:16 am | Report abuse |
    • Gale

      That is why our world keeps screwing itself over and us as the people just throw our hands up and say oh whatever. I don't care what they do just as long as it doesn't effect me. Well guess what, it affects us all.

      January 18, 2011 at 8:22 am | Report abuse |
    • krymsonfang

      some people would welcomethe chance to see a loved one again even if it is in body only especially if they did not have a chance to be with that person at death or if they did not get to say good bye. though i would find it disturbing

      January 18, 2011 at 8:32 am | Report abuse |
    • Gale

      Hey krymsonfang, I did not get to say goodbye to my Dad but I would not want him back walking around again bc I know he is gone. It has only been a month since I lost him and it would be strange for me to see him again. None of my family had the chance to say goodbye but I know none of us would wish him back just to have a chance to say goodbye all over again. Some might want it that way but in my head that would be just to crazy and disturbing just like you said.

      January 18, 2011 at 8:40 am | Report abuse |
    • Sal

      Ouch! You would be saying 'goodbye' to a person who has never met you before. Creepy, especially from the clone's point of view. What kind of closure is that, when your 'dad' says: "Goodbye? I don't know you and you're creeping me out." And by the time he was old enough to look like you remember your dad, you'd be [add your current age to the age of your father when he passed] years old.

      January 18, 2011 at 9:16 am | Report abuse |
    • Bob

      Maybe you find this distasteful, but cloning is most certainly not 'wrong,' despite the rantings of your local lunatic, I mean priest. I for one am pretty freaking excited... I can't wait for the day when I get to ride a mammoth to work! Also, elephants may have feelings, but I highly doubt that it will be emotionally scarred by this process.... shouldn't we be more worried about the success of justin beiber, hannah montana, and all of these non-talented teen idols that are parading their plastic faces around on tv? also, INHUMANE... key root to that word: human.... not sure how you can be inHUMANe to an animal. I guess we should start addressing our dogs as sir/mam, and find a way to get them on ObamaCare...lol

      January 18, 2011 at 9:28 am | Report abuse |
    • Testicus

      everyone who appears "worried" about this can rest assured... a clone is still an individual, just copied. so to Gale who commented previously, a "clone" of your dead relatives would NOT be them, they would simply "look" like them. aside from all the moral issues for even doing so in the 1st place, a clone of your father would not BE your father. that new, cloned person would have no idea who you are... until you told them. as for the purpose of cloning people, i can see none other than for the harvesting of perfect organs for the rest of us... i think a clone of me would be great to have handy should i require a transplanted whatever. and no rejection medication! cool beans 😉

      January 18, 2011 at 9:50 am | Report abuse |
    • Mark

      You are so convinced that your view is the right one, aren't you? Have you even thought about the scientific progress potentially stemming from this project. There's a reason scientists are working on this project and not you.

      January 18, 2011 at 9:56 am | Report abuse |
    • Someone

      Well its not as if you would see him as he was a month again. He would be a baby.

      January 18, 2011 at 10:11 am | Report abuse |
    • emitgib

      Amateur Scientist playing GOD. Lets see them clone a soul.

      January 18, 2011 at 10:50 am | Report abuse |
    • opie

      If humans were cloned, you would be dead by the time the clone of your father was old enough to look like your father. What does it matter if humans are cloned or not?

      January 18, 2011 at 10:55 am | Report abuse |
    • Phil

      @ emitgib

      There is no soul, therefore we are unable to clone it.

      January 18, 2011 at 11:05 am | Report abuse |
    • WOW SERIOUSLY

      It's actually spelled " differently."

      January 18, 2011 at 11:20 am | Report abuse |
    • Anti-Bob

      Hey Bob maybe you should try checking out the definitions to words before you start throwing around their roots. Inhuman means to simply lack human qualities such as caring and compassion, which is something unfortunately most scientists who are willing to experiment on animals have. Seems I heard once that cruelty to animals was a warning sign of sociopathism which in turns leads to serial killers, it's a good thing those guys are holed up in laboratories otherwise they'd be gunning for humans next.

      January 18, 2011 at 11:42 am | Report abuse |
    • ab

      i agreee with gale people this is the end of world as you know it

      January 18, 2011 at 11:42 am | Report abuse |
    • Obvious Cat

      Who is to say we already havn't cloned humans?

      January 18, 2011 at 11:44 am | Report abuse |
    • DedlyEdly

      I see people who are nearly identical to others I know all the time. Why should I feel any differently about a clone than someone bearing a strong physical resemblance?

      January 18, 2011 at 11:46 am | Report abuse |
    • bal

      Go back to preschool, sir. Man played god by killing the Mammoth, the cave bear, the Smilodons, the giant sloths and many others. I think it'd be fine to reverse the mistakes our Pleistocene ancestors made and bring back the animals we killed.

      January 18, 2011 at 11:46 am | Report abuse |
    • Pat Mygroin

      There's not guarantee that they'd look like the dead person either. Parents can have a dozen kids that don't look alike.

      January 18, 2011 at 12:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dreamer

      I agree with ab, partially. When we have people too close-minded to think of the implications of such profound ideas beyond what we feel is morally right, despite morals being ambiguous and specific to each individual, we're reaching the end of civilised society, right here, right now.
      Also, when people can't spell "agree" or know that "extincted" really, REALLY isn't a word.
      R.I.P. Civilisation. Hello again Dark Ages.

      January 18, 2011 at 1:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • Steve

      You are an ignorant fool Gale. You people need to stop finding things to complain about. You're impeding progress. We could have flying cars and biological computer implants by now if there wasn't always someone whining about some ethical issue. They are trying to clone a Mammoth from DNA. This would give them the power to resurrect extinct species that we'd rather not be without. This doesn't mean they'll try it on humans and if they did, who cares? You get cloned if you want to be cloned you don't if you don't. So, stuff it and let the scientists do their jobs and enhance/enrich our daily lives through progress...

      January 18, 2011 at 1:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • Robert Brock

      Chances that enough of the chromosome bodies are undamaged to create such a clone is remote but I believe possible. I have expected this attempt for years and good luck to these scientists!
      Mammoths (and nastodons) are, after all, species of exticnt elepahants and we do have living elephants today. Though I did understand that "Indian" elephants were genetically closer to the "Wooly" veriety!???

      January 18, 2011 at 2:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • Gale

      @ Steve first of all the only reason you got balls to call me a fool is because your probably miles away from me! I was voicing my opinion just like everyone else on here is doing but I am not sitting here calling people fools and such. My problem is people like you who sit there with their thumb up their ass caring less about what happens to this world. That is the reason it is like the way it is now bc people do not care anymore. Everyone has their own feels about this situation just like anything else. But the way you make it sound, if we did everything like you was talking about the world would be this awesome place. Wrong again. Too many opinions, too many voices, and too many nuts like you. Think twice about calling someone a fool bc you might be looking at one in the mirror.

      January 19, 2011 at 9:26 am | Report abuse |
  8. Scotty

    I've noticed the reactions to this story – on multiple sites. Interesting. A generation ago, our parents and grandparents ogled exhibitions of a bright future at Worlds Fairs. Today, our pessimism about tomorrow gives rise to a society comprised of Luddites and Chicken Littles. We might need to resurrect the rhetoric of FDR, "All we have to fear is fear itself." Yes, there are ethical concerns here. Is it humane to bring back the mammoth? Does the scientific benefit outweigh any risks to humankind in an ecosystemic context? Are we "playing God"? These are all valid questions. But there's another side to this story. It's incredibly exciting. Not long ago the notion of cloning a mammoth was science fiction. Today, it would appear to be a reality. And the implications here – for good – are manifold. What if we could utilize this technology to right man-made imbalances, to re-engineer our environment in ways that would increase sustainability? What if, someday, we discover that life once existed on another planet but was extincted by way of macro-environmental events? Might this technology allow us to restore and study it? Might this extend to means by which we could terraform planets initially unfit for human habitation? No matter what, I'm not going to lie: I'd be the first in line at the wooly mammoth exhibit.

    January 18, 2011 at 8:20 am | Report abuse |
    • Dave

      Yeah, we have an EXCELLENT track record of environmental engineering. Hello New Orleans. Hello Love Canal. Hello?
      /sarcasm

      January 18, 2011 at 9:22 am | Report abuse |
    • SeanNY

      It was easy for FDR to say that back then, because he didn't have to worry about all of the problems that we have today. I feel like if FDR were alive to see this development he would amend his statement, and say something more like "All we have to fear is fear itself ... and being run through the gut by the tusk of a giant woolly mammoth."

      January 18, 2011 at 10:05 am | Report abuse |
    • Summer819

      The thought incredibly exciting? Maybe. Does it mean we should do it just because we can? Nope.

      I fail to see how resurrecting a mammoth hybrid would help us right the wrongs we've done to our ecosystem.

      January 18, 2011 at 10:08 am | Report abuse |
    • Jason

      Very well put. I think that some experimentation is needed to learn more about our biological make up and new ways to cure diseases. Those of you who say that we could not engineer our environments using New Orleans as an example, remember that the city was founded nearly 300 years ago. We have learned from many of our mistakes since then. Yes we will still make mistakes, but with the ever expanding population we are going to have to do something and probably during your children's lifetime. The increasing demand of the planets renewable resources alone may soon reach a tipping point to where they will not be able to be renewed faster than they are used. Study, experimentation, and implimentation will help society as it usually does, but society will have to impose standards to this research based on the moral compass of the whole.

      January 18, 2011 at 10:43 am | Report abuse |
    • Sean

      Very nicely stated. It's a shame how society has become so paranoid and negative that even in the light of a major scientific breakthrough, they criticize and belittle the possibilities.

      January 18, 2011 at 11:28 am | Report abuse |
    • mild bill

      To heck with the rhetoric, lets resurrect FDR.

      January 18, 2011 at 2:39 pm | Report abuse |
  9. bobbie66

    * I want my mastodon/african elephant, biggie-sizeable! Then, I could finally finish my backyard step-pyramid and obelisk.

    *-kw

    January 18, 2011 at 8:20 am | Report abuse |
  10. Harv

    The article didn't say, but I am wondering if they intend to just use nuclear DNA in the cloning attempt or if they intend to use both mammoth nuclear and mitochondrial DNA. If they are going to just use the nuclear DNA then the result (assuming this works) would be some sort of mammoth/elephant hybrid.

    January 18, 2011 at 8:20 am | Report abuse |
    • Truly True

      Mitochondrial DNA is the director of call activity, completely from a mother but it is a teeny part of an organism's genetic material compared to what's in DNA. Still and all, I have to agree that this will be a hybird unless the mitochondria are also from the dead mammoth. On the other hand, perhaps modern elephants and extinct mammoths share much or most of the mitochondrial DNA - it does, after all, get passed down fairly unchanged, and aren't elephants and mammoths from the same precursor?

      January 18, 2011 at 8:40 am | Report abuse |
  11. Andy

    based on what I've read in previous articles, this will not be a clone. It will be a hybrid species and a true clone is not possible.

    January 18, 2011 at 8:31 am | Report abuse |
  12. Jeff Allen

    I think this is great news and have wondered why this wasn't attempted years ago. I don't see the "ethics" issue, unless, as Harv questioned whether they will try to create a hybrid. That's where I would draw the line. In past successful cloning procedures, the original blueprint was still in the DNA used and therefore unchanged. I would be very hesitant to proceed otherwise. Just my opinion.

    January 18, 2011 at 8:37 am | Report abuse |
  13. REAGAN MINDED

    MAYBE IN DOING SO RESURRECT THE THE DISEASE THAT MADE THEM EXTINCT? OH THEY DONT KNOW IT WHAT MADE THE MAMMOTHS EXTICT? WELL WHOS TO SAY IT WASNT SOME SUPER VIRUS?

    January 18, 2011 at 8:48 am | Report abuse |
    • Gale

      Yeah I haven't heard one great thing about cloning a mammoth. What is so great about cloning other than they can do it or we can finally have a big hairy mammal walking around in our backyards? I say do something constructive with those brain's of theirs. lol

      January 18, 2011 at 8:54 am | Report abuse |
    • Goth Vanhellsing

      Most of the evidence points to a mix of a large earth impact, changes in climate, and the over hunting from early man as the reason most of the big mammals died off around that time. Not some scary disease. Why is it that people who know so little about science always have an opinion about it?

      January 18, 2011 at 9:14 am | Report abuse |
    • skeptical

      "....we'll examine its ecology and genes to study why the species became extinct and other factors."

      Apply Occam's Razor - what happened 12,000 years ago in North America, that also happened in Madagascar at a different time, and New Zealand at a different time, all with the same results? The arrival of humans. What was rapidly killed to extinction? The largest animals.

      January 18, 2011 at 9:25 am | Report abuse |
    • Muneeb

      WELL I DON'T KNOW WHAT WIPED THEM OUT BUT I GUESS WE'LL FIND OUT IF IT WAS A SUPER VIRUS. AND IF IT EVEN AFFECTS HUMANS.

      January 18, 2011 at 9:30 am | Report abuse |
    • FarSide Liberty

      What the heck are you talking about? They are cloning the mammoth, not a virus. "Super viruses" – or any viruses – don't just appear out of some animal. You might as well be saying cave-men are gonna start appearing and throwing spears at us.

      You sound like those people in the middle ages that thought maggots spontaneously generated out of meat, just because.

      January 18, 2011 at 2:00 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Bsolo

    Yeah! let's go ahead and open Pandora's Box and see what's inside!

    January 18, 2011 at 9:00 am | Report abuse |
  15. Dave

    Wait a minute, if these mammoths died out about 12,000 years ago, Al Gore can't blame it on SUV's!

    January 18, 2011 at 9:01 am | Report abuse |
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