Bringing woolly mammoths back from extinction

As you may know, frozen woolly mammoths have been discovered in ice formations, more or less intact, since the 18th century.  So why not clone some, bringing them back from extinction?

A Russian university says scientists have discovered frozen woolly mammoth fragments that may contain living cells deep in Siberia, bringing closer the possibility of cloning the extinct animal.

The North-Eastern Federal University said in a statement on Tuesday that an international team had discovered mammoth hair, soft tissues and bone marrow at a depth of 328ft (100m) during a summer expedition.

Expedition chief Semyon Grigoryev said a group of Korean scientists with the team had set a goal of finding living cells in the hope of cloning a mammoth. Scientists have previously found bodies and fragments, but not living cells.

Grigoryev told online newspaper Vzglyad it would take months of lab research to determine whether they have indeed found the cells.

Woolly mammoths are thought to have died out 10,000 years ago.

via Woolly mammoth remains may contain living cells | Science | The Guardian.

Bringing back the mammoths.  Would that not be cool?

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • http://enterthevein.wordpress.com J. Dean

    That would be definitely cool. If nothing else, it would serve as an opportunity to study the mammoth in detail, and compare/contrast the creature with the modern elephant.

    Somebody call Michael Crichton!

  • http://enterthevein.wordpress.com J. Dean

    That would be definitely cool. If nothing else, it would serve as an opportunity to study the mammoth in detail, and compare/contrast the creature with the modern elephant.

    Somebody call Michael Crichton!

  • Pete

    Rip Van Pachyderm

  • Pete

    Rip Van Pachyderm

  • mikeb

    I’m not so sure. It didn’t work out so well before: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0107290/

  • mikeb

    I’m not so sure. It didn’t work out so well before: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0107290/

  • WebMonk

    Ever since Dolly came around, I’ve been hoping they could get the Woolly Mammoth back. This would be amazing!

  • WebMonk

    Ever since Dolly came around, I’ve been hoping they could get the Woolly Mammoth back. This would be amazing!

  • http://www.brandywinebooks.net Lars Walker

    I’m all for it. Likely to be a lot less dangerous than hippopotamuses, and we manage to coexist with them.

  • http://www.brandywinebooks.net Lars Walker

    I’m all for it. Likely to be a lot less dangerous than hippopotamuses, and we manage to coexist with them.

  • http://www.geneveith.com Gene Veith

    That picture, by the way, is of a baby woolly mammoth that was found frozen in Siberia. Then the taxidermists preserved it. It’s in a museum in Russia, but it was recently part of a travelling exhibit that made its way to the Field Museum and some other places in the United States.

  • http://www.geneveith.com Gene Veith

    That picture, by the way, is of a baby woolly mammoth that was found frozen in Siberia. Then the taxidermists preserved it. It’s in a museum in Russia, but it was recently part of a travelling exhibit that made its way to the Field Museum and some other places in the United States.

  • Jon

    How is this not man playing God?

  • Jon

    How is this not man playing God?

  • Carl Vehse

    “Bringing woolly mammoths back from extinction”

    Well, the woolly mammoth certainly looks delicious to me.

    Oh … never mind.

  • Carl Vehse

    “Bringing woolly mammoths back from extinction”

    Well, the woolly mammoth certainly looks delicious to me.

    Oh … never mind.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Jon asked (@7):

    How is this not man playing God?

    Wait, what? How is it man playing God? It’s not like we’re creating wooly mammoths ex nihilo — which, you know, we can’t.

    Typically, that phrase is used to describe humans taking the lives of other humans, and even then, that’s only because God has commnded us not to murder, that a man’s lifespan is God’s to decide, not ours.

    But where has God commanded us not to do this with wooly mammoths?

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Jon asked (@7):

    How is this not man playing God?

    Wait, what? How is it man playing God? It’s not like we’re creating wooly mammoths ex nihilo — which, you know, we can’t.

    Typically, that phrase is used to describe humans taking the lives of other humans, and even then, that’s only because God has commnded us not to murder, that a man’s lifespan is God’s to decide, not ours.

    But where has God commanded us not to do this with wooly mammoths?

  • Jon

    @9 tODD, if the mammoth is extinct, let it be. Who is man that he can bring such a beast back to life, to roam an environment it was not meant to inhabit? Things have changed, biologically and ecologically, since the mammoth’s demise; to bring it back would cause irreparable harm to the current mammoth-less ecosystem. God owns the (mammoths) cattle on a thousand hills, if he chooses to cause their demise, who is man to thwart that?

  • Jon

    @9 tODD, if the mammoth is extinct, let it be. Who is man that he can bring such a beast back to life, to roam an environment it was not meant to inhabit? Things have changed, biologically and ecologically, since the mammoth’s demise; to bring it back would cause irreparable harm to the current mammoth-less ecosystem. God owns the (mammoths) cattle on a thousand hills, if he chooses to cause their demise, who is man to thwart that?

  • WebMonk

    Jon – say whaaa?

    Who is man that he can bring such a beast back to life, to roam an environment it was not meant to inhabit?
    There must be some really deep presuppositions you have going on, because I can’t think of any Christian doctrine or anything in the Bible that speaks against restoring extinct species.

    As your “irreparable harm” idea, um …, yeah. I’d absolutely love to hear what sort of irreparable harm some mammoths living in science labs and zoos is going to do to the environment.

    THEORETICALLY – in a couple hundred years there might be enough of them to try releasing some into highly protected reserves, and then a few hundred years after that they might grow to herds of a few thousand in those reserves, and a few hundred years after that they might begin to spread beyond their areas, and a few hundred years after that they might start being an environmentally destructive population.

    So, MAYBE in a thousand years they could be a problem. Far more likely is that they would be sort of like modern elephants – endangered and in need of protection from being killed off.

    I suspect you have some really deeply rooted ideas that man just shouldn’t do some stuff and are grasping at reasons to back it up, because the Bible certainly doesn’t say anything against bringing extinct species back, and it certainly isn’t going to cause “irreparable harm” to anything.

  • WebMonk

    Jon – say whaaa?

    Who is man that he can bring such a beast back to life, to roam an environment it was not meant to inhabit?
    There must be some really deep presuppositions you have going on, because I can’t think of any Christian doctrine or anything in the Bible that speaks against restoring extinct species.

    As your “irreparable harm” idea, um …, yeah. I’d absolutely love to hear what sort of irreparable harm some mammoths living in science labs and zoos is going to do to the environment.

    THEORETICALLY – in a couple hundred years there might be enough of them to try releasing some into highly protected reserves, and then a few hundred years after that they might grow to herds of a few thousand in those reserves, and a few hundred years after that they might begin to spread beyond their areas, and a few hundred years after that they might start being an environmentally destructive population.

    So, MAYBE in a thousand years they could be a problem. Far more likely is that they would be sort of like modern elephants – endangered and in need of protection from being killed off.

    I suspect you have some really deeply rooted ideas that man just shouldn’t do some stuff and are grasping at reasons to back it up, because the Bible certainly doesn’t say anything against bringing extinct species back, and it certainly isn’t going to cause “irreparable harm” to anything.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Jon (@10), it’s curious that, in defense of your argument that to bring back to the wooly mammoth would be “playing God”, you then proceed to make an entirely scientific argument, with not a single word from, you know, God.

    Who is man that he can bring such a beast back to life, to roam an environment it was not meant to inhabit?

    Well, it’s probably the same man who brought kudzu to an environment it was not meant to inhabit, as well as Burmese pythons, cane toads, European rabbits, and, you know, several hundred or thousand other instances.

    Anyhow, feel free to make an environmental critique of this hypothetical scenario, but if you want me to believe it constitutes “playing God”, then, um, try making an argument from Scripture?

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Jon (@10), it’s curious that, in defense of your argument that to bring back to the wooly mammoth would be “playing God”, you then proceed to make an entirely scientific argument, with not a single word from, you know, God.

    Who is man that he can bring such a beast back to life, to roam an environment it was not meant to inhabit?

    Well, it’s probably the same man who brought kudzu to an environment it was not meant to inhabit, as well as Burmese pythons, cane toads, European rabbits, and, you know, several hundred or thousand other instances.

    Anyhow, feel free to make an environmental critique of this hypothetical scenario, but if you want me to believe it constitutes “playing God”, then, um, try making an argument from Scripture?

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Oh, and just so I’m clear, Jon (@10), yes, I got your Psalm 50 reference. And yeah, that doesn’t say anything about whether we’re allowed to kill animals or not. It’s about sacrifices and the spiritual state of Israel.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Oh, and just so I’m clear, Jon (@10), yes, I got your Psalm 50 reference. And yeah, that doesn’t say anything about whether we’re allowed to kill animals or not. It’s about sacrifices and the spiritual state of Israel.

  • reg

    I have been waiting for wooly mammoths to be brought back for many years….I can’t understand what is taking so long. Lets get on with it. Implant any viable chromosomes into an elephant egg, gestate in the elephant and hello Cenozoic Park.

  • reg

    I have been waiting for wooly mammoths to be brought back for many years….I can’t understand what is taking so long. Lets get on with it. Implant any viable chromosomes into an elephant egg, gestate in the elephant and hello Cenozoic Park.

  • Dave

    There is more to this than meets the eye. Let’s say that scientists are successful in extracting DNA and bringing this beast back to life. We’ll have been successful in restoring a long lost creature but how will it learn to be a woolly mammoth? What I’m getting at is that most animals (particularly higher vertebrates) learn how to make it in this world from their mother and/or the herd. Neither one exist in this case.

    It is a widely known fact that young animals become “imprinted” shortly after they are born. We laugh when we see a baby skunk nursing from a cat or a dog. Why does that happen? The baby skunk identifies itself as one of the pets. That’s why biologists in California go to extreme measures in trying to keep California condor chicks from imprinting upon the humans who trying to bring them back from the brink of extinction.

    I all in favor of trying to resurrect the mammoth but let’s be realistic about the end result. At best it will act like an African elephant not a woolly mammoth that once roamed the earth.

  • Dave

    There is more to this than meets the eye. Let’s say that scientists are successful in extracting DNA and bringing this beast back to life. We’ll have been successful in restoring a long lost creature but how will it learn to be a woolly mammoth? What I’m getting at is that most animals (particularly higher vertebrates) learn how to make it in this world from their mother and/or the herd. Neither one exist in this case.

    It is a widely known fact that young animals become “imprinted” shortly after they are born. We laugh when we see a baby skunk nursing from a cat or a dog. Why does that happen? The baby skunk identifies itself as one of the pets. That’s why biologists in California go to extreme measures in trying to keep California condor chicks from imprinting upon the humans who trying to bring them back from the brink of extinction.

    I all in favor of trying to resurrect the mammoth but let’s be realistic about the end result. At best it will act like an African elephant not a woolly mammoth that once roamed the earth.

  • http://deepeningwaters.com JD Loofbourrow

    I’m not one to usually agree with tODD but it may well be that God’s purpose in preserving them in ice (as it was certainly His doing) and permitting us the knowledge to clone (also His doing) that we should, in this case, do so.

    There is a way to “play God” that is not presumptive or evil. Well, ok, maybe I should say “play like God.” Mankind is an expert at hunting, killing, eating and using animals as a resource (which is ok to a point). This seems to me to be a rare opportunity to resurrect an animal and give them a new start. I know that there are ethical problems with cloning human beings but it seems to me a godlier thing to be about creating life.

    Still who knows if we even really can? It seems to me that scientist often overestimate their ability to do certain things. Is there any living animal close enough to a mammoth that could birth the animal? Is there some way to circumvent that need? How strong would their species be with such a shallow gene pool? I would think an elephant would be the logical help but I don’t know.

    One of the reasons we were made was to steward this world. If we find the last seed of a plant that is extinct in our garden, is it good stewardship to cast it out or to plant it and nurture it? For my part, I have no objections. I hope they do rides!

  • http://deepeningwaters.com JD Loofbourrow

    I’m not one to usually agree with tODD but it may well be that God’s purpose in preserving them in ice (as it was certainly His doing) and permitting us the knowledge to clone (also His doing) that we should, in this case, do so.

    There is a way to “play God” that is not presumptive or evil. Well, ok, maybe I should say “play like God.” Mankind is an expert at hunting, killing, eating and using animals as a resource (which is ok to a point). This seems to me to be a rare opportunity to resurrect an animal and give them a new start. I know that there are ethical problems with cloning human beings but it seems to me a godlier thing to be about creating life.

    Still who knows if we even really can? It seems to me that scientist often overestimate their ability to do certain things. Is there any living animal close enough to a mammoth that could birth the animal? Is there some way to circumvent that need? How strong would their species be with such a shallow gene pool? I would think an elephant would be the logical help but I don’t know.

    One of the reasons we were made was to steward this world. If we find the last seed of a plant that is extinct in our garden, is it good stewardship to cast it out or to plant it and nurture it? For my part, I have no objections. I hope they do rides!

  • kerner

    In the event that they turn out to be an intelligent species that multiplies, forms a society, and attempts to take over the earth, I’m blaming tODD. Just putting in my opinion ahead of time for the record. :D

  • kerner

    In the event that they turn out to be an intelligent species that multiplies, forms a society, and attempts to take over the earth, I’m blaming tODD. Just putting in my opinion ahead of time for the record. :D

  • http://geochristian.wordpress.com/ Kevin N

    Carl Vehse commented that woolly mammoths might be mighty delicious.

    In the preface to The Gulag Archipelago, Solzhenitsyn relates the following about dining on the remains of Pleistocene critters:

    In 1949 some friends and I came upon a noteworthy news item in Nature, 2l magazine of the Academy of Sciences. It reported in tiny type that in the course of excavations on the Kolyma River a subterranean ice lens had been discovered which was actually a frozen stream — and in it were found frozen specimens of prehistoric fauna some tens of thousands of years old. Whether fish or salamander, these were preserved in so fresh a state, the scientific correspondent reported, that those present immediately broke open the ice encasing the specimens and devoured them with relish on the spot.

    The magazine no doubt astonished its small audience with the news of how successfully the flesh of fish could be kept fresh in a frozen state. But few, indeed, among its readers were able to decipher the genuine and heroic meaning of this incautious report.

    As for us, however — we understood instantly. We could picture the entire scene right down to the smallest details: how those present broke up the ice in frenzied haste; how, flouting the higher claims of ichthyology and elbowing each other to be first, they tore off chunks of the prehistoric flesh and hauled them over to the bonfire to thaw them out and bolt them down.

    We understood because we ourselves were the same kind of people as those present at that event. We, too, were from that powerful tribe of zeks, unique on the face of the earth, the only people who could devour prehistoric salamander with relish.

    No woolly mammoths, but still ice age cuisine.

  • http://geochristian.wordpress.com/ Kevin N

    Carl Vehse commented that woolly mammoths might be mighty delicious.

    In the preface to The Gulag Archipelago, Solzhenitsyn relates the following about dining on the remains of Pleistocene critters:

    In 1949 some friends and I came upon a noteworthy news item in Nature, 2l magazine of the Academy of Sciences. It reported in tiny type that in the course of excavations on the Kolyma River a subterranean ice lens had been discovered which was actually a frozen stream — and in it were found frozen specimens of prehistoric fauna some tens of thousands of years old. Whether fish or salamander, these were preserved in so fresh a state, the scientific correspondent reported, that those present immediately broke open the ice encasing the specimens and devoured them with relish on the spot.

    The magazine no doubt astonished its small audience with the news of how successfully the flesh of fish could be kept fresh in a frozen state. But few, indeed, among its readers were able to decipher the genuine and heroic meaning of this incautious report.

    As for us, however — we understood instantly. We could picture the entire scene right down to the smallest details: how those present broke up the ice in frenzied haste; how, flouting the higher claims of ichthyology and elbowing each other to be first, they tore off chunks of the prehistoric flesh and hauled them over to the bonfire to thaw them out and bolt them down.

    We understood because we ourselves were the same kind of people as those present at that event. We, too, were from that powerful tribe of zeks, unique on the face of the earth, the only people who could devour prehistoric salamander with relish.

    No woolly mammoths, but still ice age cuisine.

  • Tom Hering

    “But a world is not made to last for ever, much less a race; that is not Maleldil’s way.” – Augray the Sorn (C.S. Lewis, Out of the Silent Planet).

    “Does he [Weston the scientist] think Maleldil wants a race to live for ever?” – The Oyarsa of Malacandra (ibid.).

  • Tom Hering

    “But a world is not made to last for ever, much less a race; that is not Maleldil’s way.” – Augray the Sorn (C.S. Lewis, Out of the Silent Planet).

    “Does he [Weston the scientist] think Maleldil wants a race to live for ever?” – The Oyarsa of Malacandra (ibid.).


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X