A Step Closer to a Real Jurassic World? Scientists Decode Mammoth DNA Genomes

By Gary Cutlack on at

You may soon be able to download schematics of a woolly mammoth and print one out in your home if you're running low on meat or want to entertain the kids for the weekend, thanks to researchers completely sequencing the genomes of two romantic old woolly mammoths.

The team at the Harvard Medical School say their analysis of the beasts' DNA suggests the species suffered two large population wipeouts, one 280,000 years ago followed by a second just 12,000 years back, leading to their dwindling death and complete extinction a few thousand years later.

The two samples of mammoth DNA studied were from animals that lived 40,000 years apart, with the more recent of the mammoths showing signs of inbreeding in its makeup -- as you might expect to see from members of the mammoths' last stand, when an isolated population believed to number at around 1,000 survived alone on Wrangel Island long after all the others had died out.

The report's co-author and geneticist Love Dalen says this could help populate Whipsnade Zoo with interesting hairy elephants that the children of the rich might pay a premium to feed peanuts to, but cloning mammoths is becoming more of a moral question than a technical one now, saying: "Our genomes bring us one critical step closer to re-creating a mammoth... I think it would be cool if it could be done, but I'm not sure it should be done." [Cell via Engadget]

Image credit: Mammoth from Shutterstock