Ten thousand years after woolly mammoths disappeared from the face of the Earth, scientists have decided to embark on an ambitious project to return these animals to the Arctic tundra. Reported by The Guardian.
The prospect of resurrecting mammoths has been debated for over 10 years, but on Monday researchers announced new funding that they believe could make their dream a reality.
Colossal, a bioscience company, raised $ 15 million for the project. Scientists initially thought about creating a hybrid of an elephant and a mammoth. They planned to create embryos in the laboratory carrying mammoth DNA. They want to take elephant DNA from the skin cells of endangered Asian elephants.
Specific genes for mammoth fur, insulating layers of fat, and other adaptations to cold climates are identified by comparing the genomes of mammoths and living elephants.
Then the embryos are planned to be transferred to a surrogate mother or, possibly, to an artificial uterus. If all goes according to plan, the researchers plan to get the first newborn mammoths in the next six years.
“Our goal is to create a frost-resistant elephant, but it will look and behave like a mammoth,” said the author of the work.
The project is framed as an attempt to help preserve Asian elephants by providing them with features that allow them to thrive in the vast expanses of the Arctic known as the mammoth steppes. But scientists also believe that introducing herds of elephant-mammoth hybrids into the Arctic tundra could help restore degraded habitats and combat some of the effects of the climate crisis. For example, by eating trees, animals can help restore former arctic meadows.
The creation of mammoth-like animals in the laboratory is the most effective way to restore the tundra, according to the scientists working on the project. But there is another opinion. “Personally, I find the rationale given - the idea that the Arctic environment could be geoengineered with mammoths we know - is not plausible,” said Dr. Victoria Herridge, an evolutionary biologist at the Museum of Natural History.
Previously, the geographical movements of the woolly mammoth (Mammuthus primigenius) were reconstructed using the chemical "GPS-tags" preserved in its tusk. The data obtained show that this animal traveled so much through the territory of modern Alaska, it could go around the Earth almost twice.