The woolly mammoth vanished from the face of the earth some 10,000 years ago. Nevertheless, thanks to a team of stem cell scientists from South Korea and Russia, these animals from the Pleistocene epoch are scheduled to make a reappearance — once they’re successfully cloned that is.
This news likely has some wondering: is there is a good reason to bring an animal back to life who roamed our planet so long ago? Another lingering question is: how will the reintroduction of these animals affect our delicate ecosystem?
In spite of their historical significance, maybe our never-ending fascination and affection for all things dinosaur-related has something to do with the decision to clone the woolly mammoth. It’s no longer a question of whether or not scientists can successfully clone animals — the first cloning of an animal took place in the 1880s. Dolly, the cloned sheep, made a big splash when she was born in 1996. She earned the distinction of being the first mammal to be cloned from an adult somatic cell using the process of nuclear transfer. Since Dolly was a typical farm animal, some, although impressed by her birth, may not have given her much additional thought. On the other hand, the cloning of a prehistoric creature is another story altogether.
Perhaps in an effort to endear itself to us in today’s world, or by sheer coincidence, the woolly mammoth has grabbed a few additional headlines since the announcement of its cloning plans. Searching in northern Siberia for ancient tusks, British scientists recently unearthed a juvenile mammoth that was found in a near-perfect state of preservation who they nicknamed “Yuka.” Yuka is estimated to be more than 10,000 years old, and was likely three to four years old at the time of its death. Remarkably, this young mammoth was found with strawberry blond hair (unlike the dark hair that mammoths are known to have had) in addition to well-preserved footpads.
Is it possible that we’ll have a prehistoric animal preserve to visit in the near future? Is the day coming when crowds will clamor to get a glimpse of cloned woolly mammoths as they mingle with other cloned prehistoric creatures? The answer appears to be a definite maybe. Maybe a better question to ask now is: will an actual Jurassic Park open before the fourth installment of the film?
Photo Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/hawkoffire/