Pleistocene Park Just Got Closer

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Researchers at Pennsylvania State University have sequenced most of the genome of wooly mammoths.

http://media-2.web.britannica.com/eb-media/09/74609-004-4834C543.jpg
As Scientific American reports:

Thousands of years after the last woolly mammoth lumbered across the tundra, scientists have sequenced a whopping 50 percent of the beast's nuclear genome,  they report in a new study. Earlier attempts to sequence the DNA of these icons of the Ice Age produced only tiny quantities of code. The new work marks the first time that so much of the genetic material of an extinct creature has been retrieved. Not only has the feat provided insight into the evolutionary history of mammoths, but it is a step toward realizing the science-fiction dream of being able to resurrect a long-gone animal

Thus far the mammoth genome exists only in bits and pieces: it has not yet been assembled. The researchers are awaiting completion of the genome of the African savanna elephant, a cousin of the woolly mammoth, which will serve as a road map for how to reconstruct the extinct animal's genome.

Armed with complete genomes for the mammoth and its closest living relative, the Asian elephant, scientists may one day be able to bring the mammoth back from the beyond. "A year ago I would have said this was science fiction," Schuster remarks. But as a result of this sequencing achievement, he now believes one could theoretically modify the DNA in the egg of an elephant to match that of its furry cousin by artificially introducing the appropriate substitutions to the genetic code. Based on initial comparisons of mammoth and elephant DNA, he estimates that around 400,000 changes would produce an animal that looks a lot like a mammoth; an exact replica would require several million.

Here's hoping that researchers can find enough DNA to sequence the genomes of saber-tooth cats, ground sloths, and glyptodonts.

The Scientific American article can be found here.

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  1. Neanderthals!

  2. Color me skeptical.

  3. So, if we resurrect mammoths, is it wrong to hunt them for their tusks? We could just make more, after all.

  4. Can we hunt them? With elephant er… mammoth guns? Or will we have to use sharp sticks and spears?

  5. Nice try guys, but the woolly mammoth is a hoax.

    Besides the world only being 6,000 years old,
    there’s no way something that big could have fit on the ark.

    Those scientists are gonna have to get up pretty early in the morning to pull if they want to pull the wool over my eyes.

  6. Dang.. db beat me to it – but I was thinking about the meat more than the tusks… I’d even buy a freezer!

  7. Clovis points!

    We do need a new economy. Nomadic hunting of mega fauna was the economy until that damn Holocene global warming.

  8. No freezer. Only authentic period methods of meat preservation are allowed.

  9. Sorry KD,

    I entered your name in the wrong box

    Clovis points!

    We do need a new economy. Nomadic hunting of mega fauna was the economy until that damn Holocene global warming.

  10. I for one welcome our Wooly Mammoth overlords.

  11. And they SNEEEERED at Michael Crichton. Lord, I mourn that dude…

  12. A decent read. Not Varley’s best, but it’s good for a couple of lazy afternoons.

  13. This may sound weird, but when I was a kid I read about the possibility of resurrecting a wooly mammoth, and I have been waiting for them to do it ever since. Let’s hope they succeed!

  14. Here’s hoping that researchers can find enough DNA to sequence the genomes of saber-tooth cats, ground sloths, and glyptodonts.

    What would you use as a host animal for the last two? For mammoths you could probably just use elephants (who will be appalled at their hairy offspring), but is there anything that could host a glyptodont?

  15. SH: Regular sloths are still around so maybe ground sloths by caesarean birth? As for glyptodonts, hmmm. maybe armadillos, but perhaps we’ll have to wait for incubators. 😉

  16. I petition the Canadian Giant Beaver!

    And no, I am not referring to that great unshorn mass betwixt Naomi Klein’s legs.

  17. Can we clone Raquel Welch from that cave man movie?

    Yum, yum gimme some!

  18. SIV | November 19, 2008, 6:40pm | #
    Sorry KD,

    I entered your name in the wrong box

    Clovis points!

    We do need a new economy. Nomadic hunting of mega fauna was the economy until that damn Holocene global warming.

    No worries SIV re the handle error: but you do bring up an interesting thought on the potential availability of Clovis points (and personally I’d recommend that anyone able invest in flint related industries asap) – if as some speculate, there is going to be a clamp down on guns, and high taxes or regulatory restrictions on ammo (possibly including the banning of lead) via the new administration, let us open up the discussion (i.e. thread-jack) about the possibility that Clovis points may be restricted. Also consider that even though these are humanly reconstituted mammoths, the originals were driven into extinction by ancient (and presumed natural) global warming, and that they could very well become extinct again, this time due to human-caused global warming.

    BTW I second the Raquel Welch cloning idea.

  19. I predict a robust mammoth industry, because, as it turns out, man has an atavistic taste for mammoth. I intend to buy 50 head of mammoth to start a ranch.

  20. Um, guys, I think this might not be the best idea…

  21. Oh, please. I can contain my mammoths with my superior 21st century wit and technology.

  22. I wonder if wooly mammoth tastes more like beef, or pork.

  23. It tastes like victory.

  24. The possibility of the ground sloth excites me much more than the mammoth. I want to ride one.

  25. Giant sloths are nice, but what you really need returned from extinction is a moa.

  26. While we know ground sloths were still around in Jesus’ time, we don’t know if he rode them. But he probably did!

  27. Now if only scientists could bring back the pygmy tarsier … oh wait, never mind.

    http://fe11.story.media.ac4.yahoo.com/news/us/story/nm/20081118/sc_nm/us_primate_indonesia

  28. I can’t wait for all the adorable saber-toothed kitten videos on youtube.

  29. Why are they wasting time genome sequencing dead wooley mammoths when it appears that Obama is going to have a bunch of them in his cabinet? Or is that dinosaurs?…

  30. I’ll get worried when they start talking Neandethrals….who actually turn out to be smarter than us but didn’t survive cuz they weren’t such a bunch of murdering bastards but once ressurected master our modern technology and enslave us anyway.

    You heard it here first.

  31. Mammoths? Who cares. Let me know when they make a new Lilly Langtry or Sophie Tucker.

    -jcr

  32. Bring back the Andrewsarchus! PLEEEEEEAAAAAASE!?!

  33. Mammoth and elephant DNA don’t splice!

  34. Do they have the complete genome of FDR?
    Just wondering.

  35. highnumber | November 19, 2008, 9:55pm | #
    The possibility of the ground sloth excites me much more than the mammoth. I want to ride one.

    gets out hose…

  36. I’ll get worried when they start talking Neandethrals….who actually turn out to be smarter than us but didn’t survive cuz they weren’t such a bunch of murdering bastards but once ressurected master our modern technology and enslave us anyway.

    No worry, they can be repelled by ubiquitous Geico signs.

  37. I’ll get worried when they start talking Neandethrals….who actually turn out to be smarter than us but didn’t survive cuz they weren’t such a bunch of murdering bastards but once ressurected master our modern technology and enslave us anyway.

    You heard it here first.

    I actually think this is probably very accurate. Have you seen the huge noggins those neanderthals had?

  38. My favorite extinct organism to bring back would be the giant 8 ft tall kangaroos I heard about once. Or the centipede looking things that were like 10 ft long. The mini sized of those things give me the creeps, i’d probably pass out at the sight of one bigger than I am.

    Also, new goal for genetic engineers: create a real-life version of Sesame Street. The wooly mammoth is obviously Snuffalupogus (spelling?) Big Bird shouldn’t be too hard.

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