Scientists to bring back woolly mammoth
Science & Technology
28th Sep, 2021
Scientists are planning to bring the woolly mammoth back to life with the help of CRISPR gene-editing technology to insert an extinct mammoth’s DNA into the genome of an Asian elephant.
About the species
- Woolly mammoths went extinct around 4,000 years ago at the end of the last “ice-age”.
- An ice age is a period of colder-than-usual global temperatures and bigger-than-usual glaciers and ice sheets.
- The Ice Ages began 2.4 million years ago and lasted until 11,500 years ago.
- The latest ice age peaked about 20,000 years ago, when global temperatures were likely about 10°F (5°C) colder than today.
- In addition to the woolly mammoth, mammals such as saber-toothed cats (Smilodon), giant ground sloths (Megatherium) and mastodons roamed the Earth.
- They may have died off when the weather became warmer and their food supply changed.
- Their ears were smaller than those of today’s elephants. This was probably an adaptation to the cold climate that kept their ears closer to their heads and kept them warmer.
- Their tusks were very long, about 15 feet (5 meters) and were used for fighting and digging in the deep snow.
- Mammoths were herbivores and ate mostly grass, but also ate other types of plants and flowers.
- The DNA, collected from mammoth tusks, bones and other preserved body parts found in ice, will be sequenced to create an “elephant-mammoth hybrid”.
- It would look like a furrier, larger elephant with smaller ears and a high-domed head.
What is Genome editing?
- Genome editing or gene editing is a group of technologies that give scientists the ability to change an organism's DNA.
- These technologies allow genetic material to be added, removed, or altered at particular locations in the genome.
- Several approaches to genome editing have been developed.
- A recent one is known as CRISPR-Cas9, which is short for clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats and CRISPR-associated protein 9.
- The Asian elephant is the largest land mammal on the Asian continent.
- Habitat: They inhabit dry to wet forest and grassland habitats in 13 range countries spanning South and Southeast Asia. Currently occurs in the following regions:
- Indian subcontinent: India, Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh
- Continental southeast Asia: China, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, and Malaysia
- Island Asia: Andaman Islands (India), Sri Lanka, Sumatra (Indonesia), and Borneo (Malaysia and Indonesia)
- Conservation status: Endangered
- Scientific name: Elephas maximus indicus
- Height: 6.5–11.5 feet
- Weight: Around 11,000 pounds
- Length: Around 21 feet