When things are so messed up in the world, how is bringing the mighty Woolly Mammoth back from extinction so far up the priority list? I mean really. Good God.
But it looks like within two years, it will be a reality—the Harvard Woolly Mammoth Revival Team (!) has plans to genetically splice mammoth genes recovered from deep freeze in permafrost with the embryo of an elephant.
Professor George Church—who has done pioneering work with the revolutionary gene-splicing technique CRISPR—is heading the project: “Our aim is to produce a hybrid elephant/mammoth embryo. Actually it would be more like an elephant with a number of mammoth traits.”
Last month, I wrote about the topic of “de-extinction,” which is now very much in vogue—and its potential risks. But Church believes that bringing back the mammoth will have its advantages as well, particularly in terms of the environment:
They keep the tundra from thawing by punching through snow and allowing cold air to come in…In the summer they knock down trees and help the grass grow.
It’s important to note that no matter how successful this project is, it’s unlikely that an actual giant Woolly Mammoth, as they were in prehistoric times, will ever be “brought back.” More likely, we would have something “approximating” one.
But is the world ready for it?