Behold! The resurrected mammoth!

Eat your heart out, George Church. The Australians have beaten you to the goal of resurrecting the wooly mammoth, and here it is:

It’s a meatball is what it is. Just a meatball. Probably not even a very good meatball.

Vow worked with Prof Ernst Wolvetang, at the Australian Institute for Bioengineering at the University of Queensland, to create the mammoth muscle protein. His team took the DNA sequence for mammoth myoglobin, a key muscle protein in giving meat its flavour, and filled in the few gaps using elephant DNA.

This sequence was placed in myoblast stem cells from a sheep, which replicated to grow to the 20bn cells subsequently used by the company to grow the mammoth meat.

“It was ridiculously easy and fast,” said Wolvetang. “We did this in a couple of weeks.” Initially, the idea was to produce dodo meat, he said, but the DNA sequences needed do not exist.

They replaced one protein in cultured sheep cells with a protein containing the mammoth sequence. That’s sort of it? I’m not impressed. There is much more to the flavor of meat than myoglobin: there’s fat distribution, muscle type, and pardon me, vegetarians, but also blood supply — white vs. dark meat. There’s texture, which is going to be in large part a product of activity in the living animal. None of that is here in that meatball. It’s the equivalent of those ‘nuggets’ made from pink slime.

And the creators are afraid to even taste it!

No one has yet tasted the mammoth meatball. “We haven’t seen this protein for thousands of years,” said Wolvetang. “So we have no idea how our immune system would react when we eat it. But if we did it again, we could certainly do it in a way that would make it more palatable to regulatory bodies.”

Oh come on. It’s mutton with a bit of elephant myoglobin tossed in. It’s mammal meat. People eat sheep and elephant without any notable reactions from their immune system, this isn’t going to be any different. The truth is they’re the people who saw the sausage being made, watched the cells getting filtered out of a flask, precipitated into a damp mass, compressed to squeeze out the tissue culture medium, and rolled out into a lump of homogenous goo and cooked. Of course it’s unappetizing. No worse than watching living animals being butchered, but still not something you want to put in your mouth.

The research team probably stood around the meatball when it was cooked, arguing about it.

“You first, Ernst.”
“No, no, the honor is all yours, Franz. I insist!”
“Ladies first. Sheila, would you like the first bite?”
“Uhh…umm…I already had lunch. I know! Mikey will eat anything! Mikey?”
“I have a better idea. Let’s just put it on a rock and take a dramatic photo.”

Now they’re flying the meatball off to the Netherlands, where it will be unveiled in a museum. Anything but eating it.


  1. rietpluim says

    It seems that some companies in The Netherlands are quite advanced in producing artificial meat. I wonder if they will be impressed.

  2. chigau (違う) says

    That’s what I get for not reading the whole post.
    Mikey is 54 years old now.

  3. wzrd1 says

    As I recall, white meat and dark meat is more phosphate based, due to the dark meat having more ATP. That’s from memory of an extension article I read from a Canadian agricultural research group. The same group having fully documented all processes involved in rigor mortis in meats.

    As for this research, I’ll call it for what it is, sheepshit burger.
    Roll the fucking thing down the museum steps and hope you don’t get charged with littering.
    But, I could go for a pack of lamb chops and some lamb stewing meat…

    Sounds more like an article that’d end up printed in the Journal of Irreproducible Results.

  4. microraptor says

    Reminds me of the time that mammoth meat was allegedly served at some sort of fancy paleontologist shindig.

    Turned out, they’d actually served sea turtle.

  5. =8)-DX says

    I never understand scientists who do this. Waste of good protein.
    Of COURSE I’d eat a mammoth meatball! IMMEDIATELY.
    ~|~\~Hand it over!~/~|~


  6. R. L. Foster says

    Come on PZ, you telling me you wouldn’t be tempted to have a taste of the meat from a resurrected, 165 million year old Nephila jurassica? If someone offered you a spider meatball made from its DNA mixed with a tarantula stem cells you’d pass?

  7. muttpupdad says

    I wonder if their next step is to put a consecrated host in a roller flask with enriched media and try to grow a middle eastern Jew?

  8. ardipithecus says

    Now, if they really wanted a dramatic photo, they should have surrounded the meatball with tiny plastic caveman figureines brandishing spears.

  9. mordred says

    They should marked that to the paleo diet crowd. Can’t get more paleo than mammoth!

  10. Dennis K says

    Dollars to donuts that image is “AI” generated. I’d like to see the real thing, if it exists at all.

  11. Big Boppa says

    Sounds like they were so preoccupied with whether they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should.

  12. lumipuna says

    The research team probably stood around the meatball when it was cooked, arguing about it.

    “You first, Ernst.”
    “No, no, the honor is all yours, Franz. I insist!”
    “Ladies first. Sheila, would you like the first bite?”
    “Uhh…umm…I already had lunch. I know! Mikey will eat anything! Mikey?”

    “That’s one spicy meatball!”

  13. wzrd1 says

    Louis @17, bollocks is next on the menu…

    Big Boppa @21, agreed!
    I’m willing to bet that the amount of mycoprotein from mammoth genes is so tiny, as to not be easily measurable.
    Just more science by press release.

  14. kaleberg says

    How about this take? Everyone who has ever eaten mammoth meat is now dead. How could that just be a coincidence?

    (My favorite version was from early in the COVID epidemic. No one has ever gotten COVID and lived for as much as a full year.)

  15. davidj says

    I do not believe them. They totally tasted that meatball. Then they decided it would seem more serious and professional if they said otherwise.

    Plus, there are Russians who illegally did up frozen mammoth carcasses in Siberia, mostly for the ivory. I am confident that they have eaten some of the meat. No matter how freezer-burnt it is.

  16. wzrd1 says

    davidj, there are documented instances where Tsars did dine on mammoth meat at feasts.