Cloning Mammoths

Mammoth cloning project given boost by bone marrrow find

05 December 11

After a well preserved mammoth thigh bone was found in Siberia this summer, a joint research group from Japan and Russia has made plans to start cloning the long-extinct mammal from next year, Japan’s Kyodo News has reported.

The gigantic leg bone was discovered in permafrost soil in Siberia this August.Kyodo News‘ report suggests that climate change has led to frozen ground in eastern Russia thawing out, potentially heralding a coming boom in mammoth discoveries.

The thigh bone is special because it contains bone marrow that has been preserved in the ice. The nuclei of the marrow cells could potentially be extracted and put inside egg cells from an elephant — which are close genetic cousins of the mammoth — to create embryos with mammoth DNA.

The researchers — from the Sakha Republic’s mammoth museum and Japan’s Kinki University — would then plant the embryos into elephant wombs and then deliver a baby mammoth.

The iconic woolly mammoth, which went extinct some five to ten thousand years ago, has been a candidate for cloning for many years and researchers have worked tirelessly to find DNA that’s preserved well-enough to clone.

The complete body of a one-month-old female woolly mammoth calf was discovered in 2007, and seemed promising. However, Alexei Tikhonov, deputy director of the Russian Academy of Science’s Zoological Institute dismissed suggestions that the mammoth could be cloned and used to breed a live mammoth.

If this joint Japanese and Russian team is successful, it won’t be the first time that an extinct animal has been resurrected by cloning. In January 2009, the recently extinct Pyrenean ibex was brought back to life. DNA from the ibex’s skin samples were used to replace genetic material in eggs from domestic goats. Sadly, the newborn cloned ibex died within minutes of its birth due to breathing difficulties