While there is no actual plan to revive the extinct species, scientist are now closer to cloning a woolly mammoth thanks to Genome Sequencing.
Analysis performed on the DNA of two the woolly mammoths and three Asian elephants was used to identify the genes that allowed the huge herbivore to survive in extremely cold environments.
Scientists used the DNA extracted from hair found among the remains of two mammoths that lived in Siberia. The remains were found years ago, and belong to animals that lived thousands of years apart. One of the mammoths lived about 20.000 years ago and while the other lived about 60.000 years ago.
The team was able to identify the genes which were responsible for the woolly mammoth’s cold adapting features, including thick curly hair and small ears and tail. While traits like small ears helped the mammoth survive the cold they could do little to prevent it from being hunted almost to extinction by humans.
The team compared the DNA from the mammoth hair to the three samples belonging to Asian elephants. Modern Asian Elephants shared a common ancestor with the Ice Age iconic mammoth, this common link lived approximately 5 million years ago.
Although scientists say the Asian elephants and woolly mammoths are similar in many ways, some of the most interesting features which helped the mammoth survive the cold hard climate have not been transferred.
Mammoths could store fat and process insulin more differently than Asian elephants and the way their bodies processed the sugar and turned it into energy was a key element in their survival. Mammoths were also likely helped by the fact that their temperature-sensing receptors were possibly much less sensitive to cold than the ones of modern elephants.
If scientists will ever create a woolly mammoth it will not be a 100 percent clone of the original but rather a cold resistant version somewhere in between an Asian elephant and a mammoth. This is due to the fact that a functioning whole genome created in a laboratory from separate sequences is very hard to build artificially.
While most woolly mammoths died millions of years back, a small number survived to about 10.000 years ago with the last individuals believed to have died on ST Paul Island in Alaska around 3750 B.C. and Wrangel Island (Arctic Ocean)in about 1650 B.C.
Image Source: slate.com