Woolly Mammoth Found With Liquid Blood: If We Can, Should We Bring Them Back?

Woolly Mammoths are the stuff of legend.  Not to the extent of Unicorns and Cyclops, but they belong to an age forgotten by modern man.  They belong in museums as stuffed estimations of their former glory.  Until now.  I don’t think I’m being over the top with the that bold, italicized cliche; but if you’re not incredibly interested in the prospect of a Woolly Mammoth returning to a zoo near you, maybe you should be.

Woolly Mammoth Replica in Museum Exhibit
We now have the liquid blood of a Woolly Mammoth. Can we bring them back? Should we? Sure, why not.

According to Agence France-Press, the mammoth is thought to have been around 60 years old when she died and was buried by ice between 10,000 and 15,000 years ago.

Digging down through the ice, says Wired UK, the researchers found the preserved mammoth in temperatures around 14 Fahrenheit—far below freezing. Poking at ice cavities found alongside the mammoth’s frozen remains with an ice pick caused liquid blood to flow. blogs.smithsonianmag.com ]

Liquid Blood From A Woolly Mammoth!?

Apparently they pricked the carcass of the long frozen Mammoth and blood spurted out.  With liquid blood available, it begs the question about whether or not the DNA is viable for cloning.

That thought, Pitts explained, entails finding cells that could be viable that could be used to derive some DNA for cloning. This method has been tried before without success. “The real difficulty is you have to be able to collect enough of a genome to do this,” he said. “It’s been done with a hundred genomes before or you can find this, but you need millions of genomes to really get all the material you need to do that.” [ cbsnews.com ]

OK, I may have been premature with the whole, ‘coming to a zoo near you’, but as the scientists say, it’s a tantalizing thought. It seems  Jurassic Park, where DNA is extracted from a mosquito hoarding blood while encased in amber, is not a vision of the future.  That DNA is too old old and damaged to use for purposes of cloning.  But that’s OK, because we saw how that turned out in Jurassic Park, and it was ugly, and it was stupid.

But If We Can Clone Woolly Mammoths, Should We?

Bringing Woolly Mammoths back among the living would not be a fraction as stupid as bringing back gigantic reptiles.  Here’s my reasoning.  Humans have already lived among Woolly Mammoths.  In fact, they were able to hunt and kill them with spears.  In other words, what’s the worst that could happen?  A bit of chaos and mischief perhaps if the enclosures weren’t secure enough, but these are fellow mammals, these are basically family!

I say if we can bring them back through cloning, it’s worth a shot. 

The only argument to the contrary I can think of is that, ‘we shouldn’t play god’.  But eh, I think the ship has sailed on that, and besides,  we as a species were probably responsible for the poor Mammoths going extinct.  The least we can do now is give them a chance to be kept in enclosures to be ogled at by the masses.

3 thoughts on “Woolly Mammoth Found With Liquid Blood: If We Can, Should We Bring Them Back?”

  1. Perhaps the real question is where do we draw the line. I read the argument against in the comment above but does it apply to other species. Without a doubt we have recently exterminated animals that could live in today’s environment. Do we have a moral obligation to bring back the passenger pigeon for example?

  2. That’s a bit of an oversimplification. Ignoring ethical concerns there are several major issues with Mammoths coming back:

    1: The Arctic ecosystem has evolved for 15,000 years without them and it is a very different place to then it was back then. It’s debatable if reintroduction would be viable or healthy to the ecosystem now.

    2: there is significant evidence suggesting that Mammoths were wiped out not by the actions of humans, but by climate change ( http://natgeotv.com.au/tv/waking-the-baby-mammoth/why-did-the-woolly-mammoth-die-out.aspx ). It’s not definite, but using the argument that ‘we probably killed them’ as justification is suspect, and ignores the other variables that may also prevent their successful resurrection.

    3: Diseases have evolved in the intervening time. diseases that the Mammoth had no immunity to. This again is a serious barrier to resurrection of the species.

    Finally, there *are* some serious ethical quandaries with bringing back the Mammoth. First of all, resurrecting species cheapens conservation. After all, why preserve wildlife when we can clone them in the lab? Secondly, if we can grow a Mammoth, why not grow a Mammoth/giraffe hybrid? It’ll be AWESOME, right? Or living mammoth-fur garments, or sentient slave mammoths (they’d be great for heavy labour)?

    I know I went into hyperbole a little there, but these are serious philosophical questions that need to be discussed. Saying it’s invalid because ‘it’s playing god’ is ignoring the fact that yes, it IS playing god, and ignoring religious hangups, there are serious social questions and ramifications that we, as a race, are only just starting to discuss.

    Don’t get me wrong. I’m thrilled by the idea of seeing a living Mammoth (I’d rather see things that we’ve definitely wiped out, like Gastric Brooding Frogs, Tassie Tigers and Dodos first though). But before we start down that road, we have to stop and think, ‘what exactly are we doing here, and what are the ramifications?’

    Science needs to have a conscience, and we need to be ethically responsible for our actions. We need our morals and or laws to keep up with our technology, or else we may find ourselves in a world of horror rather then one of wonder.

    1. Hi Ben, my over simplification was a bit tongue and cheek, to be light hearted about an otherwise serious issue. But I accept the valid criticisms.

      “First of all, resurrecting species cheapens conservation. After all, why preserve wildlife when we can clone them in the lab?” – This I don’t agree with. Conversation of species is definitely still important; and the reasons why we’d want to concern ourselves with conservation even if we could ‘bring species back from extinction’ is because it’s a hell of a lot cheaper, and once they’re back from extinction, we’d have to conserve them anyway. Also, I don’t actually advocate reintroducing them back into the wild – at all – in the article. If we did clone them, it would be for the purpose of putting them in enclosures to be ogled at by the masses – which is also tongue and cheek, as I’m not certain they’d fancy that existence; although that’s an interesting philosophical discussion right there.. to exist or not to exist, which is preferable under such circumstances? I would of course hope it would be a nice habitat.

      So far as diseases go, that would be something to deal with that would be no more difficult, I think, than surmounting the challenges of actually successfully cloning the Mammoths from the DNA. Regarding bringing in a hybrid, that’s sort of a misdirection of the conversation.. No one is advocating that; we can already do with any number of species on this planet that aren’t extinct if the technology is in place, and the desire to do so.. so that’s a different discussion.

      Regarding the moral bounds of science, I’m all for keeping the exponential growth of technology and morals in balance – though they never will be, as morality grows more at a pace akin to natural selection when compared to technology growth – though I see far, far bigger problems that already exist when it comes to this area of discussion.. like hydrogen bombs, and creating antimatter, and artificial intelligence, and I could go on.. Bringing Mammoths back, to put in a few select zoos, by comparison, is quite benign.

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