Monday, January 17, 2011

Mammoth Resurrection in Four Years

This is happening way sooner than I had anticipated. The road appears clear to resurrect the mammoth species at this time, or at least it is down to working out the details.  I hope we do not have to master the art of creating a viable nucleus from component parts.

Four years may be optimistic and it may still end up been four years spread over ten.  Yet it is time to think about we will do with a resurrected herd of at least fifty animals we will want to produce some genetic diversity.  The Peace River Delta sounds like a good plan to me and I am sure that the Russians will have some great locates.

More importantly, this also opens the door for the resurrection of the whole Pleistocene menagerie including dire wolves, cave bears, and giant everything else.  It also opens the possibility of the resurrection of recently extinct species such as the dodo and giant auk.  More poignantly, I would like to see the passenger pigeon restored. 

A lot will not make it, but we will feel far less guilty over our past behavior if we can create great refugia holding such populations.

And then we have the curious observation of soft tissue recovery from large dinosaurs.  Who knows where we will end up?

Mammoth 'could be reborn in four years'

The woolly mammoth, extinct for thousands of years, could be brought back to life in as little as four years thanks to a breakthrough in cloning technology.

By Julian Ryall in Tokyo 2:13PM GMT 13 Jan 2011

Previous efforts in the 1990s to recover nuclei in cells from the skin and muscle tissue from mammoths found in the Siberian permafrost failed because they had been too badly damaged by the extreme cold.

But a technique pioneered in 2008 by Dr. Teruhiko Wakayama, of the Riken Centre for Developmental Biology, was successful in cloning a mouse from the cells of another mouse that had been frozen for 16 years.

Now that hurdle has been overcome, Akira Iritani, a professor at Kyoto University, is reactivating his campaign to resurrect the species that died out 5,000 years ago.

"Now the technical problems have been overcome, all we need is a good sample of soft tissue from a frozen mammoth," he told The Daily Telegraph.

He intends to use Dr Wakayama's technique to identify the nuclei of viable mammoth cells before extracting the healthy ones.

The nuclei will then be inserted into the egg cells of an African elephant, which will act as the surrogate mother for the mammoth.

Professor Iritani said he estimates that another two years will be needed before the elephant can be impregnated, followed by the approximately 600-day gestation period.

He has announced plans to travel to Siberia in the summer to search for mammoths in the permafrost and to recover a sample of skin or tissue that can be as small as 3cm square.

If he is unsuccessful, the professor said, he will ask Russian scientists to provide a sample from one of their finds.

"The success rate in the cloning of cattle was poor until recently but now stands at about 30 per cent," he said. "I think we have a reasonable chance of success and a healthy mammoth could be born in four or five years."

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