Nature

Are scientists trying to bring extinct Wooly mammoths back into life?

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When anyone mentions bringing the extinct creatures back into the environment, the first creature almost everyone thinks of is dinosaurs. But, for the scientists, the first preference for de-extinction of an extinct animal is Mammuthus primigenius, commonly known as the woolly mammoth.

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The woolly mammoth is known to be extinct from the last 10,000 years, but now scientists are finding ways to bring them back to life. So here’s the information all about the efforts of scientists to bring the woolly mammoth back into existence and why are they doing it.

Unknown facts about the Woolly mammoth

The precise depictions of these creatures in the cave art reveal a lot of unknown information about them. Here are a few facts that most people do not know about these mammals:

  • They weren’t precisely mammoth

Though their name includes the word mammoth, the male woolly mammoth could grow between 9 to 11 feet and weigh around 6 tons. It is many times more than the weight of Asian Elephants that are present today.

  • You can guess its age from its tusks

Just like the rings of the tree, the tusk of the woolly mammoth also had rings. The different layers of rings present in the tusk provided a rough estimate of the age of the mammoth.

  • The outer hair of mammoth grew long with a shorter undercoat hair

The woolly mammoths were living in the ice age, and therefore they needed long hair to stay warm. Its coat of hair grew up to 35 inches long. The undercoat hair was short, thinner, and curlier and grew up to 3 inches.

Bringing woolly mammoth back to life

It is not an easy thing to bring the dead back into life again. But, scientists are trying out many different things to bring them back. For bringing the woolly mammoth back to life, scientists are attempting cloning and modification of genes of African elephants. The extinction of the woolly mammoth happened due to climatic change, change in the ecosystem, and early human hunting techniques. Therefore it isn’t easy to make them survive in the same environment again.

In 2011, a team of scientists from Russia, Japan, and the United States started working together to make a clone of the mammoth. They thought of using the DNA they extracted from the mammoth carcass. And then put it in the egg of an African elephant. This process did not turn out to be successful as the DNA is non-functional now. 

Another way adopted by the scientists was to bring about a “proxy” species to the mammoth. To do this, scientists placed the genes of woolly mammoths into the cells of Asian elephants. Using CRISPR, the gene-editing technology, about 40 changes are made by scientists in the cells of the Asian elephants.

Should woolly mammoth be de-extinct or not?

The extinction of woolly mammoths happened about 10,000 years ago. Now whether the scientists should be bringing the woolly mammoth back to life or not is a critical question. Along with a scientific challenge, the de-extinction of an extinct animal is also a subject of ethical concern.

Some organizations believe that bringing the woolly mammoth back to life will combat climate change. As the woolly mammoths will turn their habitat regions into grasslands again, they will fight climate change. These grasslands will further help in the deeper freezing of permafrost during the winter months. But, all these are only assumptions as nothing is clear as of now.

It will take time, maybe say more than 50 years for the de-extinction of an extinct animal if the technical hindrances are overcome. However, the techniques used in de-extinction the mammoths will be usable later on for saving the lives of threatened or endangered species.

The scientists are still not clear whether they will start working on this project or not as it is not the ultimate way to stop extinctions. The ability to bring back extinct species into life later will diminish the necessity of saving the endangered species.

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