Bringing back the mammoth: an exciting scientific project
Just as a mosquito caught in amber helped revive a whole group of dinosaurs in the film 'Jurassic Park', the Colossal company wants to resurrect mammoths in order to repopulate Siberia.
The New York Times reports that Colossal is starting its project with a donation of $15 million. The company expects many more contributions once investors are convinced that the possibility of the mammoth's revival is realistic.
Colossal's scientific project is led by Harvard University biologist George Church. He has very unorthodox theories about the ways in which DNA can be managed to restore extinct animal species.
The method proposed by George Church will not be as simple as that used in Jurassic Park: extracting dinosaur DNA from the mosquito that sucked the blood from the extinct creature.
Instead, Colossal will take DNA from today's elephants and modify it by copying the features of the DNA found in mammalian remains. As such, a mammoth will be created from the DNA of an elephant.
There are opponents within the scientific community to experiments like that of Colossal. They question whether the invasion of a species from the past won't affect today's ecosystem in a dangerous way. Do we actually know enough about these extinct species, their diseases and their behaviour?
However, according to statements by Colossal in the New York Times, the resurrection of the mammoth could have a positive impact on the ecosystem. The company claims that mammoths were once "environmental engineers" who, by eating moss on the tundra and leaving their excrement, helped fertilize the soil and put a stop to erosion.
(Image: Daniel Born / Unsplash)
In a Pleistocene park in Siberia, bison were already introduced to regenerate large areas of the tundra following this logic: moss-eating and fertilization to go against the degradation of land.
Investors in the George Church-led Mammoth Resurrection Project include the famous Winklevoss twins. They are pioneers of cryptocurrencies and were previously involved in the creation of Facebook.
There is no specific deadline. The researchers admit that it is a very complex task. It is impossible to predict how long it will take until altered elephant DNA will create a living mammoth.
The possibility of the mammoth's return comes at the point of a climate emergency. The earth is changing along with its climate. And this was precisely the phenomenon that wiped out the mammoth 12,000 years ago: the end of the Pleistocene era.
(Image: Unsplash - Martín Sánchez)
Once the mammoth is back, could that happen to other species as well? The answer would be: yes. The method used by Colossal makes it possible to search for current species that share DNA characteristics with extinct creatures, and then adjust them to recreate those species.
Which animal is related to the ancient dinosaurs? At first glance, it looks like that would be a reptile. However, science has already shown that birds are closer relatives. In any case, dinosaurs are very far removed from all living beings today.
Some scientists believe that the most interesting aspect of the Colossal project (aside from resurrecting the mammoth) is the ability to manipulate the DNA of currently endangered species, to make them stronger so that they may survive.
(Image: Max van den Oetelaar / Unsplash)
The recovery of species like the dodo, which became extinct around 1690, could become a reality. This creature lived in present-day Mauritius, in the middle of the Indian Ocean. Man caused its demise by cutting down the forests in which it lived and ruthlessly hunting it down.
Be that as it may, the current project is focusing on the mammoth first. The challenge is to repopulate Siberia with this species, in order to make the mammoth more than just an approximate replica in a theme park or movie.