Wed. Dec 1st, 2021

THE first woolly mammoths to walk the Earth in ten thousand years could roam the tundra again by 2027.

That’s according to a crack team of scientists aiming to bring back the extinct beasts to the Arctic.

Scientists aim to create a 'a cold-resistant elephant, but it is going to look and behave like a mammoth'


Scientists aim to create a ‘a cold-resistant elephant, but it is going to look and behave like a mammoth’Credit: Alamy

Entrepreneur Ben Lamm, and George Church, a professor of genetics at Harvard Medical School in the US, announced the project on September 13.

It’ll be carried out by Colossal, a new gene-editing company that aims to “de-extinct” the mammoth using controversial CRISPR technology. 

They want to create a hybrid by making embryos in the laboratory by putting skin cells from Asian elephants into stem cells with mammoth DNA. 

The genomes are taken from animals recovered from the permafrost.

Embryos would be carried by a surrogate mother.

In an interview with Inverse, the team revealed that a “herd” of mammoth calves could be brought to life as early as 2027.

The possibility of recreating the giant beasts has been studied for years. 

Now researchers have fresh funding which they think can make it a reality.

Woolly mammoth – the key facts

Here’s what you need to know…

  • The woolly mammoth is an ancient creature that is now extinct
  • The species first appeared 400,000 years ago in East Asia when it “diverged” from the steppe mammoth
  • Its closest living relative today is the Asian elephant
  • Woolly mammoths are one of the best-studied prehistoric animal, due to the discovery of frozen carcasses in Siberia and Alaska
  • We also have evidence of them in the form of skeletons, teeth, droppings and cave paintings
  • A woolly mammoth was similarly sized to a modern African elephant
  • Males were typically around 11ft tall, and weighted up to 6 metric tons
  • Females were smaller at 9.5ft tall and 4 metric tons
  • A newborn calf weighed around 90 kilos, or 200 lb
  • Woolly mammoths were well-adapted to the frosty temperatures of the last Ice Age, thanks to their fur coats
  • They largely disappeared from the mailand around 10,000 years ago, thanks to a shrinking habitat and hunting by humans
  • Isolated populations survived on Arctic islands until as recently as 4,000 years ago

The boost comes from £11million raised by the bioscience and genetics company Colossal.

Prof Church said: “Our goal is to make a cold-resistant elephant, but it is going to look and behave like a mammoth.

“Not because we are trying to trick anybody, but because we want something that is functionally equivalent to the mammoth, that will enjoy its time at -40C, and do all the things that elephants and mammoths do.”

The team believes the animals could help restore the Arctic steppe by knocking down trees.

But Dr Victoria Herridge of the Natural History Museum said the plan was “implausible”.

She also called into question the ethical issues with such a project.

“If [this technology] genuinely does what they hope it’s going to do, that will fundamentally alter the way that we as humans interact with the natural world,” Dr Herridge told Inverse.

Scuba divers find HUGE Ice Age mammoth bone in Florida river

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