Monday, 9 January 2012


We may one day have wooly mammoths (Mammuthus primigenius), extinct since the Pleistocene, roaming around zoos and colder climes. At least it looks that way.

Because of their massive size and icy cold environment, many mammoths have been preserved as frozen carcasses instead of being turned to stone, thus they are prime candidates for genetic reproduction. When originally touted in the news as a possibility, most audiences took the science to be too far fetched.

Researchers harvesting DNA and deciphering their genome feel they are on the edge of doing just that. Science as we know it is sliding down the double helix to science fiction. DNA, long bits of genetic code that form the roadmap of how we are built, is relatively easy to harvest and remarkably hardy.

Even with the abuse of time, small amounts can be extracted and with that the genetic wizards are able to put the puzzle pieces back together. Frozen sperm is used in fertility clinics around the globe, the difference here is that the entire mammal is frozen before harvesting the sperm. Once harvested, the frozen sperm from long extinct male mammoths is injected into eggs from females of closely related species.

While positive results have been made and papers published (see the National Academy of Sciences) a baby mammoth has yet to be conceived.