Scientists plan to bring the woolly mammoth back to life, and they believe they could do it within the next six years.
The woolly mammoth has been extinct for around 10,000 years. It’s believed a combination of hunting and climate change wiped out the last living individuals, according to Reuters.
Despite their extinction thousands of years ago, it’s possible that the earth will have woolly mammoths once again, thanks to a biotech company, Colossal.
That company, co-founded by entrepreneur Ben Lamm and Harvard Medical School genetics profession George Church, has raised $15 million of private funding to bring woolly mammoths back to life, and they anticipate having living calves in the next six years.
Dr. Church has been working to resurrect the woolly mammoth for years, speaking publically of his intent for the first time in 2013.
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He plans to modify the DNA of the Asian elephant to match that of a woolly mammoth. According to The Guardian, researchers would make an elephant-mammoth hybrid using skin cells from the Asian elephant and altering them to carry woolly mammoth stem cells.
Their focus is on reviving the woolly mammoth not just to bring back a species of the past, but to help the environment in areas where the mammoths lived.
Speaking with NPR, Colossal explained, “We are working towards bringing back species who left an ecological void as they went extinct. As Colossal actively pursues the conservation and preservation of endangered species, we are identifying species that can be given a newset of tools from their extinct relatives to survive in new environments that desperately need them.”
Some argue against the ethics of releasing a lab-grown hybrid animal into the wild. However, their presence could help preserve the earth and life as we know it. According to The New York Times, in areas where woolly mammoths used to live, Siberia and parts of North America, high levels of carbon dioxide are being produced. It’s believed that having woolly mammoths living in those areas helped maintain the environment and slow climate change.
Dr. Victoria Herridge, an evolutionary biologist, said to The Guardian, “My personal thinking is that the justifications given—the idea that you could geoengineer the Arctic environment using a herd of mammoths—isn’t plausible.”
Philosopher Heather Bushman also had concerns regarding ethics. She said, “You don’t have a mother for a species that—if they are anything like elephants—has extraordinarily strong mother-infant bonds that last for a very long time. Once there is a little mammoth or two on the ground, who is making sure that they’re being looked after?”
Regardless of if the work on the environment through the use of woolly mammoths is successful or not, it’s hard to deny the impact that this work could have on. The work being done could be used to save other species in danger of extinction, especially as climate change threatens to change habitats around the world.
The New York Times reported that Dr. Beth Shapiro, a paleogeneticist at the University of California Santa Cruz, believes the work in species preservation is worth it. She said, “I worry that for lots of species today, the pace of climate change and the pace of habitat degradation is such that evolution isn’t going to be able to save them. We need to intervene even more.”Whizzco