The mammoth became extinct approximately 10,000 years ago, but that's not stopping scientists from Japan and Russia from planning to clone one within the next year. Well-preserved bone marrow recently found in a mammoth thigh bone uncovered from the permafrost soil in Siberia is key to the plan.
Scientists from Russia's Sakha Republic Mammoth Museum and Japan's Kinki University will work together to replace the nuclei of egg cells from an elephant with those from the mammoth's marrow, resulting in embryos containing mammoth DNA.
These embryos would then be implanted into African elephant wombs for gestation and delivery as elephants and mammoths are closely related species.
Research into cloning mammoths has been ongoing since the 1990s, but has been hampered by needing perfectly intact nuclei suitable for the transplantation technique. When the thighbone specimen was recently uncovered this August, the possibility of the transplantation has suddenly become more of a reality.
Ironically, it is global warming that has triggered this attempt at cloning. The usually tough permafrost in Siberia had hampered the recovery of intact specimens, but with ground thawing there have been a number of frozen mammoth finds.
Scientists have been successful at cloning animals for years — from Dolly the sheep — the first cloned animal now into a fourth generation, to glow-in-the-dark beagles. Cloning an ancient mammoth would be a first in the realm of long extinct animals.
The research team has not indicated what would happen to the cloned mammoths if successful, but we are going to dust off our copies of Jurassic Park to see if there are any tips.