After discovering blood in the remains of a woolly mammoth frozen 43,000 years ago, scientists now believe they have a “high chance” of successfully cloning the mammal, which hasn’t walked the Earth in an estimated 4,000 years.
“The data we are about to receive will give us a high chance to clone the mammoth,” Russian Association of Medical Anthropologists member Radik Khayrullin told The Siberian Times.
Researchers from Russia’s North-Eastern Federal University found the most well-preserved remains ever discovered in Siberia’s northeastern province of Yakutia last summer, and so far have been able to extract useable samples of mammoth hair, bone marrow and other soft tissue.
Team scientists from Russia, the United Kingdom, United States, Denmark, South Korea and Moldova have been excitedly discussing the potential to clone the Ice Age king since the find, which would be feasible with an elephant surrogate mother — the mammoth’s closest living relative.
“It will be a different mammoth to the one living 43,000 years ago, especially taking into account that there will be interbreeding with a female elephant,” Khayrullin said of the potential clone, which would be the result of a mammoth embryo implanted in an elephant.
“We must have a reason to do this,” Khayrullin said, describing the ethics of such a scientific endeavor. “It is one thing to clone it for scientific purpose, and another to clone for the sake of curiosity.”
The existence of mammoths overlapped with the early age of humans, which some scientists theorize led to their extinction from hunting for hides, tusks and meat for clothing, tools and food. Other theories include climate change and meteor strikes.
The majority of the mammoth population is thought to have gone extinct some 10,000 years ago, but evidence of surviving bands as recently as 4,000 years ago has been found on islands off the Siberian Coast and in Alaska.