Harvard scientists may be on the verge of resurrecting the woolly mammoth – which disappeared more than 4,000 years ago from a combination of climate change and over-hunting.
In advance of the American Association for the Advancement of Scientists (AAAS) annual conference, George Church – who is heading the project’s team – told reporters:
Our aim is to produce a hybrid elephant-mammoth embryo. Actually, it would be more like an elephant with a number of mammoth traits. We’re not there yet, but it could happen in a couple of years.
Using DNA from woolly mammoths’ most closest living relative – the Asian elephant – the scientists have been able to splice in woolly mammoth characteristics using a tool called Crispr, which has revolutionized genetics.
The ethnical nature of reviving an extinct animal is a topic of conversation at this week’s conference. Some speculate that reintroducing the woolly mammoth to Siberia could help lower temperatures as their massive heft would break holes in the ice, exposing permafrost to cold air and thus preventing it from melting.
Such endeavors, however, can have unforeseen consequences, as such extraordinary scientific feats have yet to occur.