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. Kevin

    Wow! Interesting!

    January 17, 2011 at 11:51 am | Report abuse |
    • Brian MacDonald

      I can't wait to find out what they taste like.

      January 17, 2011 at 12:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sutler

      Very gamey chicken?

      January 17, 2011 at 12:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • Glenn Gorrie

      Imagine the backstraps on that beast. Go suck a cold carrot, PETA.

      January 17, 2011 at 1:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • cjbigcat

      The planet is running out of food due to overpopulation. War, crime, genocide, natural disasters, disease, hunger, rainforest and farmland and species are dwindling daily, enonomy has taken a nose dive along with enployment, foreclosures are at an all time high along with national debt, N. Korea is threatening nuclear holocust, pollution has sky rocketed along with disasters involving oil and energy companies, we can't find a competent president or congress, but we WILL clone the wooly freakin mamoth and all our trouble will go away!!

      January 17, 2011 at 1:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jason

      Is the DNA still intact after 12,000 years?

      January 17, 2011 at 1:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • proud n ?

      mmmmmmm mammoth burgers!!!

      January 17, 2011 at 2:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • EPaul

      Wow…I'm stunned at some of the outrageously idiotic comments made on this forum. Let's put the wooly mammoth project aside and start a new breed of humans that aren't so destructive in their thoughts and actions!

      January 17, 2011 at 3:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • pkfops

      This is what happens when a clone goes bad and is sent back to the trailer park:

      'The planet is running out of food due to overpopulation. War, crime, genocide, natural disasters, disease, hunger, rainforest and farmland and species are dwindling daily, enonomy has taken a nose dive along with enployment, foreclosures are at an all time high along with national debt, N. Korea is threatening nuclear holocust, pollution has sky rocketed along with disasters involving oil and energy companies, we can't find a competent president or congress, but we WILL clone the wooly freakin mamoth and all our trouble will go away!!"

      January 17, 2011 at 5:24 pm | Report abuse |
  2. JOhn

    Hmmmmmmmmm..... can they clone a dinosaur?

    January 17, 2011 at 12:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • greg

      No, they cannot clone a dinosaur. There's a big difference between an animal that died merely 12,000 years ago, and ones that died 65,000,000 years ago. Fossilization does not preserve DNA except in extremely rare cases.

      January 17, 2011 at 12:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • Russ

      No. They can't clone a dinosaur because there isn't any DNA from them. They're all fossils, which means rock. Dinosaurs are also died in excess of 65 million years ago, whereas the mammoth died about 12,000 years ago and was frozen all this time.

      January 17, 2011 at 12:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • Joe

      JOhn, yes, they could, in theory use this same process with dinosaurs. As the other posters have said though, it would require finding an in-tact fleshy dinosaur that has not fossilized (possibly one frozen in ice like the mammoth). The odds that in-tact usable DNA from so long ago could be found even if a frozen, non fossilized dinosaur was discovered are extremely slim, but it doesn't mean its impossible. Pulling blood from a mosquito entombed in amber makes for a good movie though.

      January 17, 2011 at 1:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • cjbigcat

      @greg...So eggs only have a 12,000 year shelf life?

      January 17, 2011 at 1:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • willow

      Come on bigcat... No the eggs do not have any shelf life. A little basic biology training would probably do you some good in understanding this article.

      January 17, 2011 at 1:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • cjbigcat

      And a little basic knowledge of sarcasim might do you some good as well.

      January 17, 2011 at 1:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • Funkymonkey1

      Their DNA is floating around in the gas tank of my car.

      January 17, 2011 at 1:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • publius enigma

      The shelf life of the dinosaur has been exceeded.

      January 17, 2011 at 1:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • willow

      Lol! bigcat... I wasn't attempting sarcasm. No time for that. I was directly pointing out that your apparent lack of understanding of basic biological concepts is preventing you from appreciating this article. Not trying to be rude. Just stating the obvious.

      January 17, 2011 at 2:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bryan

      aside from the lack of DNA other researchers have mentioned, there's also the problem of what to fertilize it into. The wooly mammoth (I know nothing of its genome) is likely close enough to the elephant that the elephant can handle it. The dinosaur, on the other hand...I'm assuming that of the extant species, none share enough genomic resemblance to actually handle a dinosaur.

      And as for the DNA problem...that's not necessarily a dead issue. We do have artificial chromosomes...large ones at that. Fabricating any dinosaur's complete genome is not feasible now, but give it time and it might be in the future. The next problem comes from figuring out what the dino genome consists of, but there are ways around that as well (making assumptions from existing species, looking at the fossilized nuclei remains, etc.)

      January 17, 2011 at 2:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sam Prime

      actually, they could clone/ressurect a dinosaur IF they find a carcass that was as good preserved as the mammoth one. another scientist almost did that.

      January 17, 2011 at 2:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • Nitalynn

      If it is the specimen I think it is then I don't think it will work. It's been preserved in formaldehyde.

      January 17, 2011 at 2:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • pdbh171

      They did that YEARS ago, I saw it on the news (CNN?), they ran a special, Jurassic something.

      And now they have exposed the reallity of the "lizzard people", called the "visitors". Watch the news people!

      January 18, 2011 at 9:59 am | Report abuse |
    • Gojira

      Okay, all of you talking about dino cloning are driving me nuts. I don't care how deep you dig (or where you dig) you wont find any usable dino DNA. The face of the Earth has been scorched and frozen far too many times in the last 50 million years for that to be posible. The only chance of that happening would be starting from scratch and then you end up with a freak that in no way resembles a real dinosaur. Mammoths were killed off within an ice ago ago, however, so that's why we have this carcass.

      January 21, 2011 at 9:48 am | Report abuse |
  3. End 'O' Days

    Thats it game over!!!!

    January 17, 2011 at 12:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sutler

      Just insert another quarter and select "Continue."

      January 17, 2011 at 12:50 pm | Report abuse |
  4. CHris

    Um... Why do we want to bring this animal back?

    January 17, 2011 at 12:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • normal people

      Because its Awesome.

      January 17, 2011 at 12:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sutler

      Its a great investment...I mean, who wouldn't pay an arm an a leg to ride one of those at the local circus? Or have one of those instead of a pony at your kid's next birthday party!

      January 17, 2011 at 12:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • kingspaz

      OOPS! I accidentally reported abuse on the guy below me. sorry! meant to hit the reply button!!

      That being said I have to agree and say the perfect answer is indeed "because it is awesome"

      January 17, 2011 at 12:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sam

      @Sutler. Uh... capitalism...

      January 17, 2011 at 12:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sutler

      What can I say, Sam, if Exxon, BP, Shell and all the others can do that with fuel, why can't we do it with Mammoths?

      January 17, 2011 at 12:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • It's Davy

      It tastes like Chicken

      January 17, 2011 at 12:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • Annas still dead

      The same reason a dog licks himself...because he can!

      January 17, 2011 at 1:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • Alvaro

      Because, they could set free the mammoth in a park, and get millions of dollars 😀

      January 17, 2011 at 1:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • Joe

      Probably one of the best reasons is for the scientific research that is possible through this process. To oversimplify, why should we study anything any longer, we have medicine, we have hospitals, surgeons can re-attach a finger if need be, I guess we know all there is to know and don't need to study anything any longer.

      January 17, 2011 at 1:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • someguy02

      So in the next Lord or The Rings movie they can use real ones!

      January 17, 2011 at 1:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • JustSomeGuy

      I am always amazed by the number of people who question why we push boundaries. Might as well ask "why do we need fire?" "why do we need wheels?" "why do we need writing?"

      We have to always push forwards, explore new avenues, develop new ideas and technologies or we become the fossils in somebody else's museum. Every time one stretches to achieve something new, it gives us insights that we didn't have before which can be applied to many other endeavors beyond the initial one.

      its the history of science and innovation and it is the reason that we are not living in caves today picking lice off each other.

      January 17, 2011 at 1:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • conrad

      At Justsomeguy ...

      With all due respect, bringing the wooly mammoth back isn't going to advance anything in the lives of humans. It's mere curiosity and nothing more. Everything dies, that's just how it is. Bringing extinct species back will do nothing but cause suffering for the poor animals who will have to live in cages, alone, prodded and cut up for sample taking. It's a disgusting egocentric endeavor.

      February 21, 2012 at 5:58 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Richp, Easton, Pa

    In North America is was probably hunted to extinction, if you could feed your tribe for a week on a buffalo you could feed them for a month on a mammoth, that's just common sense.. Very cool stuff though. I take it there are no frozen eggs or sperm in any of those mamcicles they find in the soviet union, degrades I guess..

    January 17, 2011 at 12:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • Lilarose in Oregon

      I think scientists already know why the woolly mammoth is extinct. I don't think it is from over hunting. It is from multiple factors. Actually, I have a baby woolly mammoth. Took it through airport security in September without any problems!

      January 17, 2011 at 12:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ron

      As I understand it, eggs do have a 'shelf life'. But sperm are VERY durable, and can survive much longer. They've been trying to find a male that was mature enough to produce healthy semen, and frozen quickly enough, to preserve it. However, if they cannot, and I assume they have not, there is the possiblity of 'simply' using viable DNA.

      January 17, 2011 at 2:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • Richp, Easton, Pa

      So they bought the Caucasian mountain dog with over bite did they, figures, once I told them my Oscilloscope was a tri corder they let me right though with the comment of 'Gee, they look smaller on TV'...

      January 17, 2011 at 2:52 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Dave

    After the sheep, did anyone think they would stop? The end is coming.

    January 17, 2011 at 12:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • Justin

      Sorry Dave, there is no "end". everyone generation has thought they were the last. That said, this animal shouldn't be cloned as it has reached their end on this planet... no need to bring them back.

      January 17, 2011 at 12:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dennis

      Science is the answer not the problem.

      January 17, 2011 at 12:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sutler

      Science is the solution to the problem of religion.

      January 17, 2011 at 12:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • Uniquitous

      Dave, you have a point. Science has a purpose. We just don't seem to know when to stop anymore. If memory serves, isn't this EXACTLY how all those kids games start regarding bizarre species that end up attacking their creators. I mean DUH!

      January 17, 2011 at 12:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sutler

      @ Uniquitous

      Except in this game, due to all the massive gun control laws, all we can use to fight back are spatulas instead of rocket launchers and semi-autos.

      January 17, 2011 at 12:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • @ THE HATERS

      Marchosias "this is a mistake". Dave "the end is coming". You guys are so full of irrational fear that its funny. So this little experiment is going to trigger the apocolypse? Or perhaps it will escape and breed with another African elephant and create a new breed of insane homicidal super elephants that are going to terrorize our cities? Your biggest fear SHOULD be that you will soon be proven wrong. What will your response be when NOTHING happens? Probably just make an excuse and change the subject like you always do.

      Real scientists are running the show, not Spielburg or Jesus. Go ahead and pray that the scientists fail. I'm going to pray that they clone a sabertooth tiger next.

      January 17, 2011 at 1:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • willow

      Sutler, written like someone who has very little understanding of science or religion. I've had many discussions defending science from religious zealots and religion from myopic atheists.

      January 17, 2011 at 2:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • JoeBarelyCares

      It would be cool to clone St. Peter, we know where is bones are buried.

      January 17, 2011 at 2:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jerome Haltom

      Wiliow, science and religion are not compatible, except in the most obvious sense that a single human being can accept ideas for conflicting bases. =)

      January 17, 2011 at 6:42 pm | Report abuse |
  7. james cueto

    They had they're chance.. Nature selected them for extinction.. I think all this is interesting but I don't think its a good idea to bring back animals that have been long gone through a natural process. How will this effect the eco system? Are they going to clone dinosaurs?

    January 17, 2011 at 12:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • mb2010a

      But what if man is the reason they became extinct as in hunted them into extinction. That would not be a natural selection process. Therefore, man should be the reason for their return from extinction.

      January 17, 2011 at 12:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mody

      I do not think one animal will have any effect on the ecosystem. this is a great opportunity to study this animal and learn more about our past to improve our future.

      January 17, 2011 at 12:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chris

      Keep in mind Mammoth populations were in most cases hunted to extinction by man, changes in environment and other natural factors were only part of the problem.

      January 17, 2011 at 12:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mark C

      They aren't going to turn them loose into the "ecosystem," Einstein. Even if they did, mankind has been f'@^#king with the ecosystem in a million different ways for many thousands of years.

      January 17, 2011 at 12:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • Brian

      if you really believe in fate and determinism wouldn't it be fate that we just so happen to find an intact woolly mammoth with viable DNA at a time when we have the technology to clone it? Isn't it just as likely that nature chose us to resurrect this animal?

      January 17, 2011 at 1:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • Brian

      @Mark C
      Seems pretty arrogant to think that we control the ecosystem, rather than considering ourselves just one more part of it. You wouldn't accuse leopards of overhunting gazelles and "f'@^#king with the ecosystem" as you so eloquently put it.

      January 17, 2011 at 1:15 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Wade

    It is a very interesting concept, cloning an extinict spieces. I would like to see the results providing that the team is successful.

    January 17, 2011 at 12:17 pm | Report abuse |
  9. ThomasD

    I love science. And support its efforts. But it makes me wonder, how many homeless children they could feed for the cost of cloning an extinct species.

    January 17, 2011 at 12:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • DanO

      Very true, but you can't profit off feeding poor people..

      January 17, 2011 at 12:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • Lilarose in Oregon

      If humans become extinct, which would you rather try to bring back? Humans or woolly mammoths?

      January 17, 2011 at 12:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chris

      Yeah, and we could feed an entire nation of children with just a fraction of our military budget, let scientists explore and learn, its what makes us better as a species. If you want to feed the needy, talk to your leaders about where they waste our tax dollars.

      January 17, 2011 at 12:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mark C

      How many could you feed for the cost of your house or car?

      January 17, 2011 at 12:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • Thomas

      People are always screaming about how many children could be fed if they would just cut funding to science. They've cut science funding to the bare minimum, know how many extra kids have been fed as a result, Zero.

      It all ends up in the pocket of some fat rich white guy as another tax cut or just suppressed to prevent scaring the religious folks into seeing alternatives.

      1000 years from now something may be having the same discussion about cloning some of those stupid hairless primates that managed to blow their species out of existence.

      January 17, 2011 at 12:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • Cryptoe

      Genetic engineering does help starving children.. staple crops have been grown for many years after being engineered to grow faster and in harsher climates. Now, imagine that the best, healthiest animals could be cloned.. eventually inexpensively.. to provide meat, milk, fur/skin for people in need.. eventually this process could be extremely helpful in dealing with the overpopulation of our planet.

      January 17, 2011 at 12:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • Justin Observation

      Science is not a charity. Scientists discover and create things, some of those things can even help the hungry, like genetic engineered food crops. Unfortunately many times those things are not used to feed the hungry, sometimes they are only used to destroy small businesses and farms, increase a corporation's monopoly, and generate huge profits. But that's not because of science, that's because of greed and corruption in industry and government. You're barking up the wrong tree.

      January 17, 2011 at 1:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • ironhead

      How many could you feed with a bbq mammoth?

      January 17, 2011 at 1:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • ArooMadazda

      @DanO – perhaps not, but I just read that Proctor and Gamble are trying to find a way to make money selling $1.50 shampoo to Chinese women earning $2.00 per day. So, don't worry, I am sure that providing food to starving poor people will turn a profit before too long.

      January 17, 2011 at 1:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • Joe

      Your argument, while direct, is not a very valid one. Yes, we should feed starving children. This experiment isn't directly diverting funds which could accomplish that goal. The processes invovled in this could help us, as a species on this planet, study plant life that existed long ago, and help stop things like the diseases that are affecting bananas, wheat, and other "staples". I'm chosing those items because your argument has to do with food. The science involved is very similar.

      January 17, 2011 at 1:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ithinkthat

      Feed the children mammoth. Kill two birds with one stone.

      January 17, 2011 at 1:53 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Cary

    Wow, awesome. I love this!! Maybe centuries from now, they can resurrect me too!! Woo hoo

    January 17, 2011 at 12:22 pm | Report abuse |
  11. DanO

    It'll be interesting to see how this works. Elephants have strong bonds maternally so it'd be cool to see how an African Elephant would respond to a mammoth coming out of her and how she'd parent it.

    January 17, 2011 at 12:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mark C

      I'm sure she'd think "holy @#%^& what a hairy baby" and then carry on as normal.

      January 17, 2011 at 12:53 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Patropolis

    This is going to be the most interesting science experiment ever! And for all you who say that nature actually selected these mammals for extinction, shut the front door, they were hunted into extinction by our ancestors. Bring them back baby!!

    January 17, 2011 at 12:26 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Epidi

    As much as I'd love to see a wooly – I'm not so certain it's the right thing to do. What applications would this have in the medical community to benefit mankind? It's always all about the money.

    January 17, 2011 at 12:29 pm | Report abuse |
  14. benjolina

    Why with African elephants? Asian elephatns are their closest relative

    January 17, 2011 at 12:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • Anothermuse

      African elephants are bigger, so maybe that is the reason. It still needs to gestate...

      January 17, 2011 at 12:46 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Colin

    This, if successful, will be true science doing what was once science fiction. Love hearing about "gaint steps" like this. Most interesting thing since Dolly.

    January 17, 2011 at 12:35 pm | Report abuse |
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