The resurrection of the mammoth will not occur in two years

Not even in the next decade. For a good debunking of the claim of cloning a mammoth that’s in all the news, John Hawks has you covered.

When I heard the story came from George Church, I admit that I rolled my eyes and moved on. Church is a very smart guy, but he also tends to start babbling far out science fiction when he’s got an audience. As Hawks points out, he’s made 45 edits to elephant cells in a dish; that’s an awful long way from the thousands he’d need to begin to re-engineer an extinct animal, and a single cell is even further from a healthy, functioning large mammal.


  1. Nentuaby says

    I was stunned when they just casually dropped in the idea that they were going to grow the neo-mammoths in artificial wombs. As if bringing a large mammal to term in an artificial womb wasn’t itself a vastly bigger story than the one they were casually using it as a supporting detail for.

  2. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Just scanning the article, all I can see the promise of nuclear fusion electrical generation plants in the same time frame. Lots of hype and presuppositions, but the engineering work will always be X years out. For the fusion plants that has consistently been 20 for the last 50 years….

  3. Ichthyic says

    thanks for posting this. my feed was filled with excited but gullible friends wondering about when they were gonna get to see a real live mammoth.

  4. cartomancer says

    The people of Yorkshire have already succeded in cloning a mammoth. It happened eighty years ago. They called it Brian and ever since it has had an interesting and varied career as an actor. You might remember it from Flash Gordon, I Claudius and numerous RSC Shakespeare and West End musical productions.

  5. Tethys says

    There have been multiple attempts to breed extinct animals, but never one that did so successfully. Even with huge advances in the cloning field, it would be incredibly inhumane to clone an animal that has no herd, and would find the current climate far too warm.

  6. gijoel says

    @4 It’s rumored that he’s been banned from using a vuvuzela by the Geneva arms convention.

    Also what’s the point in cloning an animal for a world that is far too warm for it?

  7. microraptor says

    gijoel @7:

    Pure vanity. It would really be a much more effective use of the money spent trying to clone a mammoth to preserve habitat for still-living species.

  8. yoav says

    Exactly, I would like to see them bring a mouse to term in an artificial womb, than we can start talking about the Jurassic Park stuff.

  9. Blattafrax says

    #8 microraptor
    Well, the article I read (Guardian?) stated that herds of mammoth would reduce the effects of global warming by punching holes in the snow and allowing cold air to reach the ground. So win-win really.

    Sadly, the two huge stories here are missed. Firstly that molecular biology techniques are at a level now that it is even possible to modify 45 genes at a time in a viable cell. The implications of this for the study of human disease in animal models is massive. Secondly that stem cell technology now allows the possibility of going from this single cell to an embryo and on to a living animal (currently mostly in rodents). These are revolutionary abilities.

    Science reporting is mostly garbage, which is a pity. But just because some people have a curious choice of animal for their work and it’s badly reported, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t celebrate the achievements. There’s room for this and preserving habitats.

    (For the record, I’m just as sceptical as you presumably are of the snow-hole-punching halting global warming thing.)

  10. prae says

    But, in actual news, they seem to actually get closer to the mammoth. Too bad elephantidae take so long to mature, the whole “add more and more mammoth genes to the elephant until you get a creature which works as a surrogate mother for an actual mammoth” process might take a while…

  11. microraptor says

    Blattafrax @10:

    That would only be effective if we could produce tens of thousands of them in a short time and successfully train them to survive in the wild. Not a small project.

  12. Dunc says

    There’s also the point that you can’t just look at a single species in isolation… How much do we know about the mammoth gut microbiome? What species of dung beetle do they need? You need the whole ecosystem.

    Then there’s the fact that elephants have culture, which they need to learn in order to be able to survive in a particular environment.

  13. Blattafrax says

    #13 microraptor
    … or add some millipede genes to give it lots of legs; some cheetah genes to make it very fast and massive overexpression of growth hormone to make it very big. Then you’d only need one. Although I do admit training it to just stay in the deep snow would be tricky, so maybe that wouldn’t work so well.

  14. birgerjohansson says

    Newsbiscuit is already on the case:
    Cloners warned; ‘Mammoths are for life, not just Christmas’ ‘We are expecting to get a lot of these over the next year,’ said the newly renamed Battersea Mammoths Home. ‘People can’t cope with these novelty breeds and they just dump them in the street. Many of our cities may soon be over-run by urban mammoths.

    Also on Newsbiscuit: “Corden and Gervais to compete for place in America” ‘Following Donald Trump’s controversial ‘America First’ policy, it has been announced that either James Corden or Ricky Gervais must leave the country, as American popular culture only has room for one fat, scruffy English bloke.’

  15. handsomemrtoad says

    From Flanders and Swann:

    The brontosaurus had a brain no bigger than a crisp.
    The dodo had a stammer, and the mammoth had a lithp.
    They couldn’t hide their defects; now, there’s none of them alive.
    Each one, like man, had shown itself unfitted to survive.
    Their story points a moral; now it’s we who wear the pants:
    The extinction of these species holds a lesson for us, ANTS.