Feature

Resurrecting the mammoth

Wooly mammoths, and Neanderthals, edge toward revival

“Last week, the woolly mammoth came back,” said Olivia Judson in The New York Times online, or at least started on the path back from extinction. As the first extinct animal to have its genome sequenced, it stands first in line if scientists can pull a “Jurassic Park” and resurrect a lost species. We have the right tools to graft mammoth DNA onto a “blank” elephant egg, but unfortunately we’re “nowhere close” to actually rebuilding a strand of mammoth DNA.

It’s just a matter of time before we can do that, said William Saletan in Slate, but “that’s not the half of it.” The next genome on the sequencing block is the Neanderthal’s. And “there are good reasons to re-create a Neanderthal”—did they have language? What did they look like? If we can square the ethics, we might have a shot at meeting our ancestors.

But would it want to meet us? said the International Herald Tribune in an editorial. “The most gung-ho scientists” think we could clone a mammoth "in a decade or two.” And sure, it would be fun for us to see a living Neanderthal or woolly mammoth, but it probably wouldn’t be much fun for them. “The first mammoth would be a lonely zoo freak,” and with climate change eroding its frigid type of habitats, it might be quickly back on the road to re-extinction.

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