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Is the Woolly Mammoth Gone Forever?

The woolly mammoth, an Ice Age icon, vanished around 4,000 years ago. But with advances in genetics, scientists are attempting to resurrect aspects of its DNA within modern elephants. This 'de-extinction' effort raises ethical and ecological questions. Imagine a world where these ancient giants roam once more. What do you think about reviving extinct species? Join the conversation below.

The largest land animal on Earth is the African bush elephant, but if a startup company gets its way, that big beast might be in for some competition. Earlier this year, the biosciences and genetics company Colossal received a $15 million USD investment towards the goal of resurrecting the woolly mammoth, which largely disappeared between 14,000 and 10,000 years ago and finally went extinct around 4,000 years ago.

Modern genetic science can now sequence and copy the DNA from the bones of long-dead animals, but rather than cloning the mammal, the hope is to genetically engineer an elephant-mammoth hybrid. "Our goal is to have our first calves in the next four to six years," said Ben Lamm, one of the cofounders of Colossal. According to the company, restoring the mammoth in its new form could help save the endangered Asian elephant, help slow climate change, and give a boost to the Arctic tundra ecosystem. Support for the project is not universal, and opponents say it is unethical to force living elephants to become surrogate parents to an unknown entity, like the proposed hybrid.

More on the mammoth:

  • Scientists can determine the age of a woolly mammoth at the time of its death by the rings on its tusks.

  • Besides the woolly mammoth, Earth was once home to the woolly rhinoceros, which became extinct around the same time as the mammoth.

  • Mammoths grazed and survived on grass, like cows, and it is believed that their humps contained fat supplies used during harsh winters.

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    • A startup has raised the funds to "resurrect" extinct woolly mammoths within a decade with gene editing technology.
      By: Steve Jurvetson
      A startup has raised the funds to "resurrect" extinct woolly mammoths within a decade with gene editing technology.