Mammoth could be brought back to life in Siberian reserve

An international team of experts has managed to catalogue the entire mammoth genome, an act that leaves the door open to future cloning of the extinct beast. Picture: Eldar Zakirov
International team of scientists complete major DNA study of extinct beast and fuel hopes of producing clone to live in special park. The woolly mammoth could be brought back from the dead and placed in a real-life 'Jurassic World' in Siberia, under proposals put forward by eminent scientists. An international team of experts has managed to catalogue the entire mammoth genome, an act that leaves the door open to future cloning of the extinct beast. At the very least the new research, published in the Current Biology journal, could allow scientists to genetically engineer an elephant that could survive in extreme cold. Pleistocene Park, a 16-square-kilometre reserve in northern Siberia, has even been suggested as the potential new home for such a population of mammoths or new elephants. Vincent Lynch, an evolutionary geneticist at the University of Chicago who was part of the research team, said: 'The work is a preamble to editing an entire woolly mammoth genome - and perhaps even resurrecting the woolly mammoth, or at least giving an Asian elephant enough mammoth genes to survive in the Arctic.' Earlier this year, as part of a separate experiment, a team of experts in Yakutsk had hoped to extract DNA from the remains of a mammoth to use for potential cloning. The perfectly-preserved remains were discovered two years ago in the Sakha Republic permafrost region, having been frozen for about 30,000 years.
The perfectly-preserved remains were discovered two years ago in the Sakha Republic permafrost region, having been frozen for about 30,000 years. Pictures: Semyon Grigoryev 
But while that project ended in failure, there is now renewed hope that the hairy beast may yet rise from the dead following the latest research. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the international experts managed to catalogue DNA from three Asian elephants and two woolly mammoths. They found about 1.4 million DNA letters that differed between mammoths and elephants, and subsequently were able to find out how the ice age giants braved the cold. The data revealed vital information about proteins and dozens of genes specific to skin and hair development, fat storage and metabolism, temperature sensation and a number of other aspects of biology relevant to life in the Arctic. It also provided an insight into how mammoths evolved, down to the last of the group that was left marooned at Wrangel Island when the rest of the global population had died out. For instance, the study showed how the mammoths had unique genes that helped them adapt to the seasonal cycles of sunlight, with almost 24 hours of darkness in winter. Pleistocene Park is a nature reserve located on the Kolyma River in the Sakha Republic, also known as Yakutia. A project is currently running to recreate the environmental conditions at the time of the last ice age, including the grasslands. This steppe had dominated Siberia and was lived on by the mammoth, but it disappeared about 10,000 years ago and was replaced by a mossy and forested tundra instead.
Pleistocene Park is a nature reserve located on the Kolyma River in the Sakha Republic, also known as Yakutia. A project is currently running to recreate the environmental conditions at the time of the last ice age, including the grasslands. Pictures: Chris Linder, Nikita Zimov 
Woolly mammoths are the best studied of all the prehistoric animals because of the discovery of frozen carcasses in Siberia and Alaska, as well as dung and skeletons. It was roughly the size as a modern African elephant, standing up to 11ft tall and weighing about seven tonnes, and its fur and long hair protected it from the harsh winters. Last month it emerged that bone disease and a lack of calcium could have led to its extinction about 3,700 years ago. Analysis by Siberian palaeontologist Sergey Leshchinsky, who has spent more than a decade examining 23,500 bones and teeth belonging to the beast, found almost every one had traces of osteoporosis. He concluded that climate change and associated geological processes affected the chemical composition of soil and water in the mammoths’ habitat, and led to them suffering from chronic mineral shortages. Now the latest study has found more data on the last days of the mammoth, including evidence of widespread in-breeding that may have also contributed to its demise.
Last month it emerged that bone disease and a lack of calcium could have led to mammoths extinction about 3,700 years ago. Pictures: Sergey Leshchinsky
By comparing two DNA copies in each mammoth, and noting when they were identical and when they were not, scientists were able to estimate how closely related its parents were. It was found that the Wrangle Island mammoth had long stretches of DNA with no variation between the mother and the father, meaning they were related and the implication being that this isolated population was very small indeed. Ian Barnes, an evolutionary biologist at the Natural History Museum in London, told the Los Angeles Times: 'Your genome is like your tool kit for getting out of trouble. If you as a species have lots of different tools available, it means some individuals will die when the environment changes or a disease arrives, but there will probably be others that will be resistant and will pass those genes on to the next generation. If you don't have the diversity, it's a challenge. Source: Article

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