Return of the Woolly Mammoth


Scientists take giant step towards recreating extinct beast after inserting 14 genes into elephants

A huge step towards recreating the woolly mammoth has been taken by scientists who inserted more than a dozen of its genes into the live DNA of an elephant.

Researchers studied the structure of DNA from mammoths preserved in the Arctic to reproduce exact copies of 14 of the extinct animal’s genes.

These were then integrated by experts at Harvard University in Massachusetts into the elephant genome – and functioned as normal DNA.

A new method known as ‘Crispr‘ – helping scientists make accurate changes to DNA – was used by genetics professor George Church, who replaced parts of elephant DNA with the mammoth genes.

He said: ‘We prioritized genes associated with cold resistance including hairiness, ear size, subcutaneous fat and, especially, haemoglobin (the protein that carries oxygen around the body).’

‘De-extinction’ enthusiast Mr Church added: ‘We now have functioning elephant cells with mammoth DNA in them.’

Mammoths co-existed with early humans who hunted them for food.

They are the best studied of all prehistoric animals thanks to the discovery of frozen carcasses, as well as dung and skeletons.

The mammoth was roughly the size as a modern African elephant, standing up to 11ft tall and weighing about seven tons, and its fur and long hair protected it from severe winters.

There are at least three teams trying to rebuild the whole mammoth genome – which could one day become a template to recreate actual mammoths.

But ancient DNA expert Professor Alex Greenwood said: ‘Money would be better spent focusing on conserving what we do have – than spending it on an animal that has been extinct for thousands of years.’

Recently, it was reported how scientists had begun extracting DNA from the remains of a mammoth found in Siberia, taking bone marrow samples from its front left leg.

The samples will be examined at a laboratory in Yakutsk, Russia, and by scientists in South Korea – with the hope of one day being able to clone one of the prehistoric animals.


  • The last colony of woolly mammoths lived off Wrangel Island off the coast of Siberia until 1,700BC
  • It is thought 150million mammoths are still buried under the permafrost
  • The animal’s age can be easily discovered from the rings of its tusk, much like looking at the rings of a tree
  • Mammoths lacked the large ears of today’s elephants, minimising frostbite and heat-loss
  • In 1951, mammoth meat was allegedly served in New York. It was claimed to have been taken from a frozen carcass found on an island in Alaska
Article Credit: Daily Mail