Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Woolly Mammoths on the return?

So...let's say a species is extinct, how valuable is it to bring it back? Is it worth academic time and money?

Today's New York Times woolly mammoth article discusses using cloning to bring the beasts back. Not a joke.

Author Olivia Judson sums it up: "In regular cloning, the genome is from the same species as the egg. In cross-species cloning, the genome and egg are from different species. So, for mammoths, you’d put mammoth DNA into a blank elephant egg, and transplant the egg into an elephant surrogate mother. For Neanderthals, you’d put Neanderthal DNA into a blank human egg, and have a human surrogate mother (or, one day, perhaps, an artificial womb). For a bird like a dodo, you’d put dodo DNA into a blank pigeon egg (dodos were essentially big flightless pigeons), and pop the egg into an incubator. Easy peasy."

Hmm... 10 different species of mammals have already been cloned. Judson points out the challenges. It took '1,552 African wildcat kitten embryos transferred to domestic cats to produce only two healthy kittens; three gray wolf clones have been born from 372 embryos transferred into surrogate domestic dogs.'

If mammoths returned, where would we put them? What would some consequences be on the existing ecosystem? Wouldn't they be hot with global warming? Maybe they could be cloned to have less fur?? Should this be a research priority?

Photo by S. C. Schuster fr.
See the NYT article for genetic references.

No comments: