First Dibs on the Woolly Mammoth Ride at the Zoo

The X Prize Foundation is considering a "Jurassic Park Prize" (named after the Michael Crichton novel in which kindly paleontologists bring dinosaurs back to life for the enjoyment of the world's children) that has the goal of finding "a safe, repeatable, and reliable fashion to bring back extinct species to rebuild a population." Back in 2008, Pennsylvania State University geneticist Stephan Schuster told the New York Times that he believed that it would be possible to clone a woolly mammoth for just $10 million. At the time, Schuster was thinking that a lot DNA repair would be needed in order to recreate a mammoth genomes. Perhaps that won't be necessary.

The Associated Press is reporting that researchers have discovered frozen well-preserved fragments of a woolly mammoth in Siberia which may contain living cells. As the AP notes:

Russia's North-Eastern Federal University said an international team of researchers had discovered mammoth hair, soft tissues and bone marrow some 328 feet (100 m) underground during a summer expedition in the northeastern province of Yakutia.

Expedition chief Semyon Grigoryev said Korean scientists with the team had set a goal of finding living cells in the hope of cloning a mammoth. Scientists have previously found bones and fragments but not living cells.

Grigoryev told the online newspaper Vzglyad it would take months of research to determine whether they have indeed found the cells.

"Only after thorough laboratory research will it be known whether these are living cells or not," he said, adding that would take until the end of the year at the earliest.

Wooly mammoths are thought to have died out around 10,000 years ago, although scientists think small groups of them lived longer in Alaska and on Russia's Wrangel Island off the Siberian coast.

Scientists already have deciphered much of the genetic code of the woolly mammoth from balls of mammoth hair found frozen in the Siberian permafrost. Some believe it's possible to recreate the prehistoric animal if they find living cells in the permafrost.

If a relatively undamaged mammoth genome could be recovered, the genetic information might be inserted in an elephant's egg that then could serve as a gestational surrogate. Would this work? Back in 2011, Hendrik Poinar, an evolutionary geneticist at McMaster University in Hamilton, Canada suggested at LiveScience that it might:

"We know African and Asian elephants can interbreed, and they're separated by 5 million to 6 million years," Poinar said. "Asian elephants are actually closer to mammoths than they are to African elephants — mammoths split from Asian elephants after Asian elephants split from African elephants — so if living elephants can interbreed, perhaps an Asian elephant can host a mammoth embryo."

Oddly, Poinar huffed:

"There is no good scientific reason to bring back an extinct species. Why would one bring them back? To put them in a theme park?"

Well, actually yes. And then maybe later let them roam free in Siberia, Alaska, and Canada.

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  • Pro Libertate||

    Yes, I'd like the Big Mammoth, hold the wooly.

  • R C Dean||

    There is no good scientific reason to bring back an extinct species.

    I suppose there's nothing to be learned from live, as opposed to fossilized, specimens?

  • Overt||

    Fuck the learning. Imagine the safaris. Talk about big game. Might need to legalize a class of weapons just to make the hunt. And build higher ceilings to hold the trophies.

  • CE||

    Or take the Caveman Diet to its logical extreme: give a dozen guys some pointed sticks, and see if they can chase a mammoth off a cliff and eat it.

  • Drake||

    Damn right! Time for some old fashioned javelin hunting.

  • BarryD||

    No shit.

    Sign me up (if I can afford it).

    Seriously, the revenue from the SCI guys could support all the wildlife conservation in Canada.

  • Bardas Phocas||

    I want to form my own Mammoth Cavalry Troop.

  • crashland||

    Actually hunting is a perfect reason to bring animals back from extinction.

    I'd love to create a nice big private hunting reserve filled with mammoths and then charge people to come in and kill them.

    Can you imagine how much you could charge somebody for that? Then think about how much people would pay to hunt a trex...

  • BarryD||

    The problem is that there is a ban on ivory, among other things.

    Canada was pissed when we banned importing polar bear hides, because it put a big damper on a lucrative hunting business up there. Obviously, hunting in Canada is regulated, and this was not decimating the population. More likely, it was eliminating some "problem" bears, getting revenue for conservation, and having no impact on the population. In some cases, judicious hunting increases the population, or perhaps the population of over-exploited prey, like seals.

    Since humans did wipe out things like the dire wolf and the woolly mammoth, the ecosystem up there can do well with some management.

  • Randian||

    Environmentalists vs. Canadians.

    How do I decide?

  • SugarFree||

    God will know his own.

  • BarryD||

    Plain fair-trade shade-grown tofu vs. poutine.

    Easy choice.

  • SKR||

    It's not like hunting them to extinction would even be a problem.

  • Mike M.||

    Well, actually yes. And then maybe later let them roam free in Siberia, Alaska, and Canada.

    Brilliant idea. No possible unintended negative consequences there, huh?

  • Ron Bailey||

    MM: Next thing you are going to suggest is that letting polar bears run around in those places has unintended consequences too?

  • sarcasmic||

    Next on Pay Per View: Wooly Mammoth vs Polar Bear in an Arctic Death Match!

  • CE||

    We'd have to bring back the sabre tooth tiger and the dire wolves to balance things out though.

  • sarcasmic||

    Now there's a PPV event that I might even shell out some money for!

  • 0x90||

    That doesn't really follow -- nature hasn't yet erased polar bears from existence.

  • Randian||

    We could if we wanted to, though.

    Nature almost drove the buffalo to extinction, and nature brought them back.

  • 0x90||

    The point was that appeal to ignorance in this case is not entirely irrational -- we do not know the reasons why every extinct species died out.

  • Bardas Phocas||

    Because God hated them?

  • SugarFree||

    They wouldn't fit on the ark. And the unicorns kept poking everybody.

  • ||

    But the dragons made it right?

  • SugarFree||

    They flew over the water. Duh. What Bible have you been reading?

  • ||

    Duh. What Bible have you been reading?

    Newt Gingrich's The Holy Scripture for Dummies of course. Is there any other?

  • SugarFree||

    LOLCat Bible. The one true voice of Ceiling Cat (CBBUH).

    1 Oh hai. In teh beginnin Ceiling Cat maded teh skiez An da Urfs, but he did not eated dem.

    2 Da Urfs no had shapez An haded dark face, An Ceiling Cat rode invisible bike over teh waterz.

    3 At start, no has lyte. An Ceiling Cat sayz, i can haz lite? An lite wuz.

    4 An Ceiling Cat sawed teh lite, to seez stuffs, An splitted teh lite from dark but taht wuz ok cuz kittehs can see in teh dark An not tripz over nethin.

    5 An Ceiling Cat sayed light Day An dark no Day. It were FURST!!!1
  • ||

    And Muslims get all pissed of about a little movie about Mohammed. When can we expect the Kitty Qur'an?

  • 0x90||

    LOLCODE (my kingdom for a pre tag):

    HAI
    CAN HAS STDIO?
    IM IN YR LOOP UPPIN YR VAR TIL BOTH SAEM VAR AN 10
    VISIBLE SUM OF VAR AN 1
    IM OUTTA YR LOOP
    KTHXBYE

    The same, in Whitespace:

  • Ska||

    Ceiling cat rides a rainbow through the stars. I call shenanigans.

  • Loki||

    Nope. God hates freaks.

  • Randian||

    No possible unintended negative consequences there, huh?

    Who knew that Natty Ice-swilling yokels loved the precautionary principle so much?

  • Mike M.||

    If the fancy-schmancy magical moving picture thingies they make in Hollyweird have taught me anything at all, it's that one minute you're bringing long-extinct species back to life, and the next minute Newman is getting eaten while on the crapper.

  • The Renegade||

    Psh, the lawyer got eaten off the crapper. Newman got got by a dilophosaurus.

  • SugarFree||

    Only cosmotarians accurately remember movie plots.

  • ||

    ^^This is true.

    That's why in my mind the movie Ghost ended with Patrick Swayze getting sucked into a trap by Bill Murray.

  • Zeb||

    Oh yeah, I think I saw that one.

  • Bill||

    Few realize the Woolly Mammoth is actually carnivorous. And can also fly.

  • Brett L||

    Epic Mammoth v. Grizzly bear battles? Where's the downside?

  • Drake||

    Only downside I can imagine is not bringing back the giant short-nose bear (half again bigger than a Grizzly), and the American Lion (700-1000 lbs of feline death).

  • sarcasmic||

    I'd like to see them bring back the passenger pigeon. That's a sad story.

  • BarryD||

    That's a good point. We're looking at long-extinct species, when there might be some easier projects with more dramatic results.

    Why we would fill Canada with mammoths when we aren't working on repopulating the lower 48 with bison, is an interesting question.

    I think the answer is simple: we all want to have "nature" somewhere that someone else will have to deal with the consequences. We don't want bison blocking the Interstate. But as long as it's some poor Canadian bastard somewhere, having to deal with mammoths destroying his farm during a short growing season, it's all good. Canada is our hat, and our own wild animal park, fuck the consequences.

  • Zeb||

    Well, I think that the idea is that in most of Canada, there isn't anyone to bother or any roads to block.

  • BarryD||

    You'd be surprised.

    There are some big cities, in the middle of Canada.

  • ||

    Actually, just about all the big cities are in a narrow strip right along the southern border.

    OTOH, the question of damage to farms is well taken.

    They could probably do lot of damage tearing up shit like oil facilities and pipelines and such, as well.

    And when you consider what colliding with a moose or even a deer can do to a vehicle, mammoths crossing deserted northern highways, where drivers are generally suffering from highway hypnosis with pedal to the floor would give new meaning to the word "roadkill".

  • BarryD||

    I suppose it does depend on how far south they come. But, say, the Calgary-Red Deer-Edmonton strip has a surprising population, to those of us who think of Alberta as empty, and a lot of people plying the highway.

  • Fluffy||

    But as long as it's some poor Canadian bastard somewhere, having to deal with mammoths destroying his farm during a short growing season, it's all good.

    Well...yeah.

  • Brandybuck||

    Uh... the bison is not extinct. Not even close.

  • BarryD||

    No shit. I even ate one, to prove it.

    Therefore it would be extremely easy to start repopulating the historic range of the bison.

    We have about 30,000 in conservation herds, 15,000 roaming free, out of about 50 million originally. The animals were almost driven to extinction, but a few people began saving a few in the late 19th Century.

    But we're not even trying to bring them back, despite it being cheap and easy to do, compared with pie-in-the-sky mammoth projects (which are interesting, don't get me wrong).

    That's my point.

  • sarcasmic||

    But, but, but with Global Warming, why bring them back if only to have them die?

  • BarryD||

    There will be selection for shorter coats, until the mammoth becomes a big naked elephant.

  • ||

    There will be selection for shorter coats, until the mammoth becomes a big naked elephant.

    Wouldn't it just be cheaper to give a bunch of elephant Rogaine or something instead of cloning an extinct species?

  • BarryD||

    Imagine the TV commercial residuals, alone, if someone were to do that and get good footage!

  • Drake||

    The Columbian Mammoth didn't have long hair. It was just substantially bigger than modern elephants.

  • SugarFree||

    until the mammoth becomes a big naked elephant

    EROTIC!

  • The Late P Brooks||

    the goal of finding "a safe, repeatable, and reliable fashion to bring back extinct species to rebuild a population."

    We have plenty of Dodos; just not the feathery kind.

  • CE||

    But if you bring them back now, they'd be an "invasive species", and we'd have to eliminate them.

  • CE||

    Jurassic Park (or more accurately, Cretaceous Park) isn't that far off either: scientists have discovered soft tissue inside a fossilized Tyrannosaur femur:

    http://www.newscientist.com/ar.....-bone.html

  • Ryan60657||

    Why wooly mammoths? Why not T-Rex?

  • BarryD||

    Bang a gong!

  • Fatty Bolger||

    Great idea. You got any T-Rex DNA handy?

  • Lord Humungus||

    I think the world is ready for Marc Bolan and a comeback tour.

  • thom||

    Did these people actually watch Jurassic Park?

  • T||

    Why would one bring them back?

    Two answers:

    Because we can.

    Because it's fucking cool.

    Geez, do they take out you fun glands when you get your PhD?

  • crashland||

    So we can hunt and kill them.

  • Brett L||

    Raptors aren't that smart, IRL. Certainly no more dangerous than a panther.

  • Pro Libertate||

    And they're chicken-sized, to boot.

    I doubt there are any macrofauna that present any significant threat to us or our ability to destroy most anything. Viruses and bacteria might be a different matter.

  • BarryD||

    Alaskan Brown Bears put a bit of a damper on one's ability to go for a quick trail run, in Sitka. Also, it's best to enter your kitchen with a Marlin Guide Gun in your hands.

    Macrofauna would not wipe out humans. That's silly. We wiped them out millenia ago, with crude methods.

    But they can certainly render a locale less-than-habitable. One must be a bit cautious, anyway.

  • Pro Libertate||

    For how long? In a controlled environment where we don't want to be killed, not very. If we're intentionally leaving an area wild, there would be risks, of course, but only to the extent we're willing to tolerate them.

    Or, in Bill Cosby's words, we brought them into the world, and we can take them out. And make another one just like them.

  • BarryD||

    Ever seen Sitka and environs?

  • JW||

    Bring them back, but make them the size of collies.

  • BarryD||

    I would totally have a Toy Mammoth as a pet!

    Wait... I wonder what their shit is like, and whether they can be potty trained... On second thought...

  • SugarFree||

    Velociraptor will replace turkey at Thanksgiving within 10 years.

  • JW||

    It tastes like Pterodactyl.

  • SugarFree||

    You say that about everything.

  • $park¥||

    "That makes you wonder about a lot of things. You take pterodactyl, for example: maybe they couldn't figure out what to make pterodactyl taste like, which is why pterodactyl tastes like everything."

  • Fluffy||

    Pro L is right.

    Even the fucking Xenomorphs would have no chance against us in a stand-up fight.

    You want to worry about genetic engineering? Worry about bacteria. Or about some wiseass making an unstoppable blight that eats grass.

  • Drake||

    A pack of Utah Raptors would probably be the most dangerous land predators imaginable. I wouldn't face the outside a tank.

  • ||

    Who would want to put a saddle on Michelle Obama?

  • sarcasmic||

    She's a wookie, not a mammoth! Sheesh! Don't you know anything?

  • ||

    Right! Sorry...

  • 0x90||

    Resurrect a few species, and you take the wind out of certain conservationist sails.

  • BarryD||

    Nah. We hunters and fishermen are generally conservationists. A sustainable huntable population of mammoths would really appeal to a lot of people who are far from tree-hugging.

    It's the city-dwelling, pale, soft environmentalists whose sails would luff most.

  • 0x90||

    Yes, I was more referring to the "ZOMG! WE ARE ONLY FIVE YEARS FROM LOSING THE BLUE SEMI-PILEATED FORK-BEAKED SLUPPERWILL!!!11one!1!!" types.

  • BarryD||

    Tangent: why do bird species names often sound like insults from a Confederate general?

    Yellow Bellied Sapsucker is a prime example.

  • o3||

    and creationists

  • The Late P Brooks||

    And pretty soon some genius will want to "re-introduce" them to Yellowstone.

    No thanks.

  • Russell||

    Where can I buy depleted uranium bullets for my elephant gun ?

  • R C Dean||

    Jeebus, if we could kill them off with sticks and pointy rocks, I suspect a standard issue Barrett .50 would do the job just fine.

  • BarryD||

    So would a real elephant gun, with a shitload more panache. Barretts are fine sniper rifles and toys for video gamers with a lot of money. Safari types favor something like this: http://www.hollandandholland.c.....kv=newc=

    Then again, you can drop an elephant stone-dead with a regular deer rifle. It's all about shot placement -- and not doing it while being charged. A certain Scot made his fortune, and fame, doing that, many years ago. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/W._D._M._Bell

    Culling elephants is an inevitable job of African game rangers. Apparently the big bulls, when old, become crazy before they become weak. There's little in the world more dangerous than a crazy, huge elephant. They don't use Barretts.

  • sarcasmic||

    Clicking the clicker I stumbled on a big game hunt on the Outdoor Channel.

    They were hunting an elephant. At about thirty feet one of them shot it just behind the head with a rifle, couldn't tell exactly what it was (wasn't a Barret, that's for sure), and the animal dropped like a stone.

  • BarryD||

    That's the Bell Shot. See wiki link, above.

  • Lord Humungus||

    Wow, Bell led the life of a real adventurer.

  • ||

    Yeah...I would think it would all depend on where you put the bullet.

  • Jesus H. Christ||

    I think, under the "wool", it's pretty much an elephant? According to the internet, wooly mammoth weighed in at 5 to 7 tons, which is a bit larger than the Asian elephant, which weigh in at a little under 5 tons up to about 6 tons. I'd say any of the magnum big dangerous game rounds would work. Heck, the SW 500 mag handgun would do the trick.

  • Jesus H. Christ||

    There were mammoth species that topped out at 15 tons. That's a BIG animal.

  • ||

    That is a lot of burgers.

  • JW||

    At the time, Schuster was thinking that a lot DNA repair would be needed in order to recreate a mammoth genomes.

    Did they shoot lasers out of their eyes before they went extinct?

  • $park¥||

    There's also the possibility that they might, and I stress might, be able to below at a pitch that could cause severe damage to dense crystalline structures.

  • $park¥||

    *bellow

  • ||

    I just want to be able footpedal my car into the local drive through and order up a nice big rack of mammoth ribs that are so big it tips the car over.

  • SugarFree||

    Green energy! Low carbon impact! Lower rates of obesity!

    Gentleman, it is time to unveil the new GM Velocipede!

  • o3||

    so is it a good idea to also resurrect neanderthals?

  • SugarFree||

    No. Too many of you post on this board already.

  • ||

    typical of your chilih ilk

    literally thousands of people on this board have thanked me for speaking the truth

    you are human garbage, you won't be missed whtn you die

  • 0x90||

    Use of passive voice: QUESTIONABLE.

  • John||

    Thanks for othering me you monster.

  • SugarFree||

    At least you aren't a Gigantopithecus, like STEVE SMITH.

    And besides, I'm pretty sure Tony is some sort of lemur.

  • o3||

    allow me to rephrase...

    would you bang klingon chicks?

  • Emmerson Biggins||

    racist

  • Fluffy||

    We should bring back Neanderthals, declare it obvious they have no souls and are therefore animals, and then own them as property and make them our slaves.

  • Fluffy||

    And then one day the Neanderthal named Caesar can lead a revolution.

    Man, that would be sweet.

  • BarryD||

    Think of the possibilities for the NFL.

  • Loki||

    Hey if they're not people with human rights, then who gives a shit about permanent long term brain damage.

    Actually I wonder if they could do this now with existing great apes? Train them to play football for our amusement. Most current football players aren't much smarter than chimps and gorillas anyway, so it could work.

  • Drake||

    It would be fascinating to see what a real live Cro-Magnon / Early-Modern wild human looked like.

    I would love to know what we were before we were domesticated and devolved into the crap I see on the streets.

    Domestication changed buffalo, wolves, goats, and other species dramatically. I bet it was the same for us.

  • Jesus H. Christ||

    I have to go with the "probably a bad idea" group. There are plenty of examples of species introduced by humans into new habitats that then cause a lot of problems, for the people and the native flora and fauna. I'm not sure most Alaskans are fond of the idea of elephant sized creatures coming around to bust stuff up. They've got enough to do with the moose, elk and bears.

  • Fluffy||

    You know what's funny to me about Jurassic Park?

    That Crichton has his characters running around yelling "Chaos Theory!" and the park goes boom, and this is somehow supposed to prove that Tampering With The Forces Of Nature is bad.

    But you know what?

    I bet the first zoo that had plain old regular animals in it was a colossal fuck-up, too.

    I bet lots of people got mauled while the ancients were figuring out how to transport animals for public games and the like.

    They just didn't say, "Oh noes we can never have zoos!" They said, "Aw, gee, it's sad that Cousin Ed got eaten. Let's make a note that our next zoo should have bars on the cages," or whatever.

    To me the lesson of Jurassic Park is that you have to build a better zoo.

  • BarryD||

    I think that some of the rangers who are trying to get some exotic predators out of the Everglades will beg to differ.

  • Fatty Bolger||

    Of course it's nonsense, and I doubt Crichton put much stock in it himself. He was always doing this, taking an interesting idea and playing with it, stretching and twisting it to further some unlikely plot. Like using quantum computers to time travel, or the subconscious mind games played by the characters in Disclosure.

  • AlmightyJB||

    Now that I know that it's possible, I won't be satified until I find out what they taste like.

  • Jesus H. Christ||

    You sound like my son. We will be watching some nature show artfully displaying the grand theater of life and death struggle, and he'll say "I wonder what one of those tastes like?".

  • James Anderson Merritt||

    The good thing is that, if you want to taste mammoth meat, we will be able to clone just the steaks. No actual mammoths need be harmed in the making of your meal. For that matter, if your philosophy is "eat the rich," you could, for example, clone, say, Ben Bernanke meat and eat that. No actual Bernankes would be harmed...

    What a very strange word we are entering...

  • James Anderson Merritt||

    The killings of Americans in Libya suggest that we may get into another shooting war sooner than previously anticipated. At this rate of bellicosity, we may be on track to plunge ourselves into the dark ages, once the little wars coalesce politically into one large global conflict. In that case, it may be a good thing to populate the polar regions with mammoths: Our primitive descendants could use the meat.

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