The extinction of Woolly Mammoths only occurred around 4,000 years ago. The gigantic, hairy elephants last populated Wrangel Island in miniscule populations. However, with modern science, we may be able to bring them back.
Colossal plans to revive Woolly Mammoths
Bioscience and genetic engineering startup Colossal has raised $15 million to revive Woolly Mammoths. After decades of theory, the genetics company will actually attempt to bring the extinct species back to the Arctic.
Colossal was co-founded by tech entrepreneur Ben Lamm. However, the team is backed by ex-Harvard genetics professor George Church. The professor is well-known for introducing revolutionary new techniques to gene editing, which will be used to revive the extinct Mammoths.
How will they revive Woolly Mammoths?
Colossal’s plans to bring the species back from extinction relies on highly complex gene editing. Essentially, scientists will extract mammoth DNA from well-preserved corpses and combine it with modern Asian elephants.
By taking skin cells from Asian elephants, the scientists can reprogram the species’ stem cells to become more mammoth-like. In particular, the goal is to give these elephants the thick, furry coats and insulating fat of a mammoth.
After that, the resulting embryos will then be incubated until birth. This can be done in either an artificial womb or a surrogate mother. Colossal is currently hoping to have their first group of baby mammoths in six years.
In a quote to The Guardian, George Church said:
“Our goal is to make a cold-resistant elephant, but it is going to look and behave like a mammoth. Not because we are trying to trick anybody, but because we want something that is functionally equivalent to the mammoth, that will enjoy its time at -40C, and do all the things that elephants and mammoths do, in particular knocking down trees.”
Big hairy boys vs Climate Change
One of the main reasons behind reviving the dead species is to battle Climate change. Modern humans’ unwillingness to act against global warming has resulted in a ravaged Arctic. However, the return of the tree-smashing Woolly Mammoths could restore the area’s natural greenery in the future.
While it would take years and require hordes of Mammoths to do so, the species’ tendency to compact the ground could restore some grassland. On the other hand, some scientists are not convinced.
In the same Guardian report, Natural History Museum biologist Dr Victoria Herridge denied the project’s plausibility. She told the outlet:
"My personal thinking is that the justifications given – the idea that you could geoengineer the Arctic environment using a herd of mammoths – isn’t plausible. The scale at which you’d have to do this experiment is enormous. You are talking about hundreds of thousands of mammoths which each take 22 months to gestate and 30 years to grow to maturity.”
Whatever the case, any attempt to battle climate change is a battle worth fighting. But is reviving an extinct species the right way to go about it?