Entire genomes of woolly mammoths mapped: Clues to extinction, possibility of bringing mammoths back

May 4, 2015

Image credit: Wiki

By Science Daily

An international team of researchers has sequenced the nearly complete genome of two Siberian woolly mammoths — revealing the most complete picture to date — including new information about the species’ evolutionary history and the conditions that led to its mass extinction at the end of the Ice Age.

“This discovery means that recreating extinct species is a much more real possibility, one we could in theory realize within decades,” says evolutionary geneticist Hendrik Poinar, director of the Ancient DNA Centre at McMaster University and a researcher at the Institute for Infectious Disease Research, the senior Canadian scientist on the project.

“With a complete genome and this kind of data, we can now begin to understand what made a mammoth a mammoth — when compared to an elephant — and some of the underlying causes of their extinction which is an exceptionally difficult and complex puzzle to solve,” he says.

While scientists have long argued that climate change and human hunting were major factors behind the mammoth’s extinction, the new data suggests multiple factors were at play over their long evolutionary history.


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14 comments on “Entire genomes of woolly mammoths mapped: Clues to extinction, possibility of bringing mammoths back

  • I dreamed this might happen ever since I learned about DNA. It looked like it would not happen in my lifetime. The researchers don’t have an X chromosome. It looks like the mammoths went out with a whimper, unlike the stories of my youth.



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  • 2
    aroundtown says:

    We don’t take care of the animals we have and were thinking of bringing the Mammoth back? I look at the picture of this magnificent animal and I envision some hunter salivating at the prospect of all the cash he could get for the tusks. Leave them be, they don’t need to experience Humans again. We have agriculture to serve our food needs so what other purpose could this serve other than the zoo prospect of having an oddity to ogle at inside a cage.

    The last Mammoth lying there dying, thinking to itself, at the very least we don’t have to suffer Humans anymore, and what do know, it wakes up after being cloned and sees a Human leaning over it saying, hey!, we brought you back for our enjoyment. Silly, but pretty close to the truth.

    Study the genome, study all the aspects of the animal if you wish, but leave them in the past were they became extinct. Something tells me the Neanderthal can’t be far off with this nutty concept of bringing back extinct species.



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  • aroundtown

    You don’t need to be so worried about it. From Wiki:

    On the question of potentially cloning a Neanderthal, Pääbo commented, “Starting from the DNA extracted from a fossil, it is and will remain impossible.”[9]

    9 McGroarty, Patrick (12 February 2009). “Team in Germany maps Neanderthal genome”. The Associated Press.



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  • Why nutty aroundtown?

    I agree there are significant problems with mammoths due to their size and finding a suitable environment for them, but we are loosing biodiversity at an alarming rate and I for one would like to see a gene bank kept and this technology explored. There are thousands of small species that could be tried first, here in Australia there are many endangered and recently extinct frogs for example, any number of bird species, Tasmanian tigers. I think bringing back even one extinct animal, even a frog would produce technology that would be tremendously important to us as a species. In addition to this is it really any more cruel to bring a mammoth back and raise it with surrogate elephants than killing a cow to make some shoes and hamburger mince? From the cows point of view I think not, just follow a cattle truck to the abattoir sometime.

    regards



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  • who would (willingly) gestate and carry it?!

    In my my movie treatment Dr Eleanor Tate played by Jodie Foster is the surrogate. With a lacklustre career in paleogenetics, childless and following a big relationship bust up with her partner, Republican campaign manager Cathy Freyling (Annette Bening), Eleanor seeks a solution to all her ills academic and personal. She volunteers, despite her age, indeed because of it. All is planned in minute loveless distanced detail, down to the timing of the C-section and how she will bring up baby. A girl is planned.

    You’ll have to wait for the movie for the rest, but I can disclose that the Antechrist hysteria plot and that of a Welsh uprising have now been abandoned. Nea’s leaving of the Republican Presidential campaign in disgust will possibly remain…But I will say Nea is clever, a little bit aspie and religion defeats her…



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  • 9
    aroundtown says:

    It is quite normal that humans generally see the Earth as our possession so we do not exclude ourselves from the grand picture. It can be a religious edict in their minds saying the invisible monkey gave us everything, or we can simply imply it with our dominance.

    I like to look at the bigger picture, extinctions from the past have brought about grand competition that allowed evolution to take great strides forward and the end result can be stunning, but if that pressure is halted by say a need or want to maintain the status quo, the resulting pressures would not be applied. I would say our desire to maintain or bring back animals would fall into this type of category. We have to look at it in that regard respective to forward evolving creatures, because we are a part of that process as well.

    In my opinion we have bigger fish to fry in that our life is rather precarious in that we need a sun for our survival, should we take the longest of long view that our sun will go away eventually we had better set our sights on leaving this solar system to establish the human presence elsewhere if we want to perpetuate our kind.

    When we reach the end of the Antropocene on Earth, other species might arise but they themselves will vanish in time as our sun steps out for good. Andromeda is on a collision course with the milky way and that will produce a vasty different galaxy at that juncture. Those two colliding will be quite spectacular and the collision of their respective black holes will likely become very active with their feeding before they finally merge into one. The prospect of our surviving that event is moot since our sun will have exhausted itself by that time in my estimation, but if we find a home within the resulting new galaxy, with a new sun that could perpetuate our kind, we will be a vastly different animal at that juncture.

    I do know this much, the prospect that a grandly magnificent sky buddy coming back around to make everything all better is highly unlikely for homo sapiens, so we had better get on with our science in the here and now to get a move on. It is not just about us in the present, it is about those who come after us that are important if you have a desire for humanity in the future. This is just my two cents from a complicated monkey so I hope my opinion doesn’t rub anyone the wrong way.

    http://www.universetoday.com/18847/life-of-the-sun/



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  • Hi aroundtown,

    Thanks for your thoughtful reply, I’m probably 90% with you on what you have said here. I’d share your thinking on ancient species that have not stood the test of time for numerous reasons. Where I’d probably differ is I feel that as we are part of an ecosystem I suspect our survival may well depend on many of the factors we are influencing in a negative manner. I agree that before a comet comes to splat us or the sun turns to a red giant we will need to leave (or what ever is still here then). However if we are to have a hope of getting there we will need to maintain a certain level of biodiversity. For that reason being able to preserve in the short term, and perhaps bring back critical species in the medium term may be the only way to stop a range of catastrophes (of our own making) that might threaten our ability to reach the long term. Thus the possibility of bringing back many species that would if not for us have survived strikes me as something to aim for. But I respect your position.

    Thanks again and regards.



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  • I always liked the idea of an artificial womb. I’m imagining a high tech fish tank. Imagine being able to watch you child grow wave, communicate, I think it’d be cool. Probably some ethical issues I’m not considering though.



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  • 13
    bonnie says:

    @ Phil

    Yee haw!

    @ Laurie

    Errrrrr, no, sounds creepy (Rosemary’s Baby comes to mind, to be blunt). Would you do it?!

    @ Reckless Monkey – ethical issues

    It’s been several years, but the moral dilemma was briefly discussed here. One point: what place in society would it have?

    In real time, lines are getting somewhat blurred with the issuance of human rights to other primates (partly done, I think, to relieve test monkeys from laboratory cages).



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