Woolly Mammoth might have been extinct for the last 4,000 years ago and most of us might have only seen them being created in animation films, but scientists are preparing to resurrect these ancient beasts, but in a new form.
According to a news report by The Guardian, scientists from the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) have been working to create a new species of the extinct beast using genetic engineering technology, and the team is only two years away from creating such an embryo.
The report quotes Prof George Church saying, “Our aim is to produce a hybrid elephant-mammoth embryo…Actually, it would be more like an elephant with a number of mammoth traits. We’re not there yet, but it could happen in a couple of years.”
Essentially the team would be working towards an animal where the characteristics of a Mammoth will programmed into an Asian elephant. The team is relying gene-editing, and the project began in 2015. According to the report, “mammoth DNA has been spliced into the elephant genome from 15 to 45,” and this is being done via a gene-editing tool called Crispr.
The animal is being referred to as the “mammophant”, and while the hybrid embryo might be ready in the next two years, an actual living creature that has traits of both Mammoths and elephants will take many years.
According to the report, mammophant will feature smaller years, shaggy hair which is typical of a Mammoth, and “cold-adapted blood.” Mammoths roamed the earth during the Pleistocene epoch, which started from nearly 1.8 million years ago and lasted until about 11,700 years ago.
The reason scientists have chosen to splice the Mammoth gene with the Asian elephant is because the latter is the closest relative of the extinct mammal. However, the gene-splicing project has also raised some ethical concerns, with other scientists questioning about whether the hybrid will in fact be accepted by other elephants, if one is successfully created.