TechReviving the Woolly Mammoth: How Science Aims to Bring Them Back by 2028

Reviving the Woolly Mammoth: How Science Aims to Bring Them Back by 2028

Mammoth - illustrative graphics
Mammoth - illustrative graphics
Images source: © Licensor

9:44 AM EST, March 8, 2024

Mammoths became extinct in Europe around 13,000 years ago, and in Siberia, extinction occurred before 10,000 years ago. These mighty creatures once roamed Europe, North America, and northern Asia vanished after the last Ice Age (the end of the Pleistocene).

So, how do scientists intend to "recreate" the mammoth? The answer lies in the genetics of these now-extinct animals. Mammoths share significant genetic similarities with their modern relatives, who are part of the elephant family. Scientists believe modifying elephant genes could create a living woolly mammoth with its characteristic cold resistance and large tusks.

Can we expect mammoths to walk the earth again soon?

According to IFL Science, the first step involves a detailed study of the mammoth's phenotype. Scientists can modify the phenotype of genetically similar animals, such as elephants, by understanding the genetic characteristics. The Asian elephant shares 99.6% of its genes with the mammoth, making it the primary focus of this genetic research.

The development of induced stem cell technology is crucial not only for the mammoth's revival, which is anticipated to occur by 2028 but also for advancing assisted reproduction technology. This breakthrough has significant implications for the conservation of endangered species.

George Church from Colossal Biosciences explains that reviving the woolly mammoth or creating animals with a similar phenotype could positively impact ecosystems. He told IFL Science that the extinction of major Arctic herbivores around 10,000 years ago led to environmental degradation, “causing a shift from grass to trees.” The reintroduction of mammoths could foster a more vibrant and productive ecosystem, promoting the growth of grasslands through increased herbivore activity.

Before moving forward, scientists must thoroughly understand the genetics of the Asian elephant, a currently underway process. The next steps involve genetically programming an elephant to develop into a mammoth. A goal Colossal Biosciences is optimistic about achieving by 2028.

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