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Old 02-10-2012, 08:24 AM
Lumpy Lumpy is offline
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Cloning a Woolly Mammoth

linky: http://www.straightdope.com/columns/...woolly-mammoth

Two things. First, Cecil points out that dinosaur fossils are actually lithic casts of the original bone and that you would not expect any original organic material to remain. Reasonable enough, except that against all expectations that's exactly what happened: traces of collagen have been recovered from dinosaur bones, so it's not completely off the wall that enough DNA might remain that one could (with much better technology than currently exists) recover a dinosaur genome. Secondly, Jurassic Park pointed out that blood-feeding insects preserved in amber might include dinosaur blood, though admittedly there are problems with that approach as well.
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  #2  
Old 02-10-2012, 08:57 AM
Mangetout Mangetout is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lumpy View Post
linky: http://www.straightdope.com/columns/...woolly-mammoth

Two things. First, Cecil points out that dinosaur fossils are actually lithic casts of the original bone and that you would not expect any original organic material to remain. Reasonable enough, except that against all expectations that's exactly what happened: traces of collagen have been recovered from dinosaur bones, so it's not completely off the wall that enough DNA might remain that one could (with much better technology than currently exists) recover a dinosaur genome.
Recent findings of preserved protein etc have been quite surprising, but still the limiation is not chiefly the technology, it's the durability of DNA itself.

Quote:
Secondly, Jurassic Park pointed out that blood-feeding insects preserved in amber might include dinosaur blood, though admittedly there are problems with that approach as well.
Sure are - insects preserved in amber are most often not really preserved insects at all - they're insect-shaped voids in the amber, lined with a carbonized film that is formed from the extremely decomposed remains of the organism
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  #3  
Old 02-10-2012, 12:26 PM
DCnDC DCnDC is offline
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In the article, Cecil writes
Quote:
Originally Posted by Cecil
...deciding whether you’re going to sell your output to zoos or Richard Branson is a classic case of counting your pterodactyls before they’re hatched.
a statement which I entirely agree with.

However, let's pretend that we've solved all of the technical scientific problems and we have our pterodactyls or mammoths or T. Rex's or whatever.

What would we do with it?

I would imagine that just releasing them into the wild would be wholly irresponsible for a myriad of reasons. Giving one over to Richard Branson strikes me as just as bad, if not worse an idea.

So what's left? Zoos? Just kill it and dissect it? What?
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Old 02-10-2012, 12:43 PM
Fear Itself Fear Itself is online now
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Originally Posted by DCnDC View Post
So what's left? Zoos?
Why not?

Last edited by Fear Itself; 02-10-2012 at 12:43 PM..
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  #5  
Old 02-10-2012, 12:51 PM
running coach running coach is online now
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Originally Posted by DCnDC View Post

So what's left? Zoos? Just kill it and dissect it? What?
They probably taste like chicken.

Or not.
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  #6  
Old 02-10-2012, 07:46 PM
Lumpy Lumpy is offline
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If we had the level of bioengineering necessary to resurrect dinosaurs, I think we'd probably do the following first:
  • Resurrect as many species as possible that have gone extinct in the last 500-1000 years; provided of course the habitats they lived in are still there. That's going to be the big issue- what would be the point of resurrecting, say, Elephant Birds if their original habitat in Madagascar is long gone?
  • If there's simply nowhere for resurrected species to exist and extant species are already dying out, we would probably keep a "virtual" population going: maintain a gene bank of as many genomes as possible, with a sub-viable number of individuals actually existing at any one time in zoos and preserves. Hoping against hope that someday, eventually, there'd be someplace for the species to be restored to.
  • A big debate over whether we should even try to bring back the species that became extinct at the end of the last ice age- mammoths, giant ground sloths, etc. Some people have already proposed that we should try to restore America's lost Pleistocene fauna with comparable substitutes. At this point it wouldn't be a case of trying to "right an ecological wrong" but making a value judgement over what ecosystems should be put in place.
  • Prehistoric (>20,000 years BCE) animals would almost certainly not fit into a modern world- they would be in competition with other species we want to keep in existence. So special-purpose created as attractions for zoos or whatnot. Maybe thousands of years from now if we have the ability to engineer giga-structures like world-sized space habitats, we might create "worlds" for them.
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  #7  
Old 02-10-2012, 11:21 PM
Captain Lance Murdoch Captain Lance Murdoch is offline
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Why bother cloning mammoths when they are still walking around in Russia? Unless that was a bear with a fish in its mouth. Nah.

Last edited by Captain Lance Murdoch; 02-10-2012 at 11:25 PM..
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  #8  
Old 02-11-2012, 08:08 AM
DCnDC DCnDC is offline
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Originally Posted by Fear Itself View Post
Why not?
Well, there is the pretty huge ethical issue of returning a long-extinct animal back to life for the sole purpose of caging it and putting it on display for our entertainment.
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  #9  
Old 02-11-2012, 08:17 AM
Fear Itself Fear Itself is online now
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Originally Posted by DCnDC View Post
Well, there is the pretty huge ethical issue of returning a long-extinct animal back to life for the sole purpose of caging it and putting it on display for our entertainment.
I don't see any ethical issue. Unless you are opposed to zoos for all animals, the breeding of one for captivity is no different than the breeding of another for captivity. Returning an animal from extinction should have no impact on the ethics of how it is treated once it was born. For the record, I would imagine mammoths in captivity would not be kept in cages, but at some kind of wild animal park.

Would it make you feel better if we returned a long-extinct animal back to life for the sole purpose of serving it in restaurants?
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  #10  
Old 02-11-2012, 08:40 AM
DCnDC DCnDC is offline
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As much as I personally enjoy the zoo, yes, it is unethical to keep animals in that manner. They are there primarily to be on display for entertainment, yours and mine, not for their benefit, no matter how you slice it.
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  #11  
Old 02-11-2012, 08:49 AM
Fear Itself Fear Itself is online now
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Originally Posted by DCnDC View Post
As much as I personally enjoy the zoo, yes, it is unethical to keep animals in that manner. They are there primarily to be on display for entertainment, yours and mine, not for their benefit, no matter how you slice it.
Then that is different, and the whole returned-from-extinction has nothing to do with it. I don't have any ethical issue with well-run zoos.
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  #12  
Old 02-11-2012, 11:21 AM
Khadaji Khadaji is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Captain Lance Murdoch View Post
Why bother cloning mammoths when they are still walking around in Russia? Unless that was a bear with a fish in its mouth. Nah.
I saw that yesterday on a "weird news" site I frequent. At first (only at first) I did think it kinda looked elephantine. But on closer inspection I too thought: Brown Bear with Fish. It is certainly convenient that it is so out of focus. But looking at it closely, you can absolutely see a big difference between the "trunk" and the animal.
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  #13  
Old 02-12-2012, 04:03 PM
Chronos Chronos is offline
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Some of those preserved T. rex soft tissues the OP mentions are right here, at the Museum of the Rockies. And from what I understand, they have, in fact, managed to extract fragments of DNA from it, though only fragments.

And they only found it because they accidentally broke the bone open, so it's conceivable that there might be semi-intact material yet to be found in other dinosaur bones, too.
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  #14  
Old 02-12-2012, 10:39 PM
Askance Askance is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lumpy View Post
Secondly, Jurassic Park pointed out that blood-feeding insects preserved in amber might include dinosaur blood, though admittedly there are problems with that approach as well.
Indeed. All the DNA gives you is essentially the blueprints for building an organism, not the materials, tools, procedures, assembly instructions or anything else necessary. If we found the blueprints for a real flying saucer made by aliens more advanced than we, we most likely couldn't actually build it because we don't have the materials, construction techniques and so on.
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  #15  
Old 02-13-2012, 08:06 AM
Lumpy Lumpy is offline
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Originally Posted by Askance View Post
Indeed. All the DNA gives you is essentially the blueprints for building an organism, not the materials, tools, procedures, assembly instructions or anything else necessary. If we found the blueprints for a real flying saucer made by aliens more advanced than we, we most likely couldn't actually build it because we don't have the materials, construction techniques and so on.
I've heard the "DNA is useless without the right egg to put it in" argument, and I'm not convinced. For one thing we aren't going to be simply copying sight unseen a presumably intact genome- more like we're going to be reconstructing it from fragments and in some cases educated guesses. At that level of bioengineering we're going to be more or less reverse-engineering how an entire organism works at the cellular-molecular level. To take the case of dinosaurs, we'd start by completely reverse-engineering a crocodile and an ostrich, so that we know exactly how you build either. Then using those templates as guides and what dinosaur DNA was available, we'd more or less infer how to end up with a dinosaur. More modern animals with closer living relatives would be much easier.
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  #16  
Old 02-13-2012, 10:52 AM
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On Cloning

People are routinely having their deceased pets cloned. I say routinely because there is a reality show about it on TLC, apparently the spots come out exact and everything.

Point being we're already a LONG way from Dolly the sheep. Whether that means Woolly Mammoths or elephants with engineered fur in our future who knows, but the business model of cloning for luxury already exists.

And so does the reality show about it. Your guess which is more disturbing.
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  #17  
Old 02-13-2012, 11:07 AM
levdrakon levdrakon is offline
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Originally Posted by DCnDC View Post
As much as I personally enjoy the zoo, yes, it is unethical to keep animals in that manner. They are there primarily to be on display for entertainment, yours and mine, not for their benefit, no matter how you slice it.
I would say the opposite is true. Zoos are critical to the preservation, breeding and reintroduction of extremely endangered species. The displays are great educational tools.
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  #18  
Old 02-13-2012, 05:18 PM
OBGynKenobi OBGynKenobi is offline
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Other methods

I recall a method discussed decades ago. Genetic material from a mammoth other than sperm would be used to impregnate an elephant. It also would take several generations to get something approaching a mammoth. Once you have a female hybrid, you do the process again and the next generation is 75% mammoth DNA and 25% elephant and then next generation is only 12.5% elephant, etc.

Still, the question is why. People object enough to testing lipstick on monkeys. Recreating a species to live out its existence as a lab rat and curiosity with little likely benefit seems a waste. It is unlikely it could ever be introduced into any ecosystem and we do little to preserve the habitats of the creatures living now.
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  #19  
Old 02-13-2012, 05:22 PM
Fear Itself Fear Itself is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by OBGynKenobi View Post
I recall a method discussed decades ago. Genetic material from a mammoth other than sperm would be used to impregnate an elephant. It also would take several generations to get something approaching a mammoth. Once you have a female hybrid, you do the process again and the next generation is 75% mammoth DNA and 25% elephant and then next generation is only 12.5% elephant, etc.

Still, the question is why. People object enough to testing lipstick on monkeys. Recreating a species to live out its existence as a lab rat and curiosity with little likely benefit seems a waste. It is unlikely it could ever be introduced into any ecosystem and we do little to preserve the habitats of the creatures living now.
We artificially engineer the genes of cows, pigs and chickens every day for no bettter reason than they taste good. I really don't think the "back from extinction" argument is relevant; if mammoths taste good, why would that be any less of a justification than breeding a yummy steer?
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  #20  
Old 02-14-2012, 05:03 AM
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I predict that Monsato will create velociraptors, copyright their DNA and use them as bodyguards.
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  #21  
Old 02-14-2012, 02:27 PM
OBGynKenobi OBGynKenobi is offline
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Originally Posted by Fear Itself View Post
We artificially engineer the genes of cows, pigs and chickens every day for no bettter reason than they taste good. I really don't think the "back from extinction" argument is relevant; if mammoths taste good, why would that be any less of a justification than breeding a yummy steer?
I'd love to see "maybe they taste good" on grant proposal for funding. I guess that'll put the fear of Science into all those price gouging tantorburger profiteers.

1. Clone mammoth
2. ???
3. Profit!
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  #22  
Old 02-14-2012, 02:58 PM
Lumpy Lumpy is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by OBGynKenobi View Post
I'd love to see "maybe they taste good" on grant proposal for funding. I guess that'll put the fear of Science into all those price gouging tantorburger profiteers.

1. Clone mammoth
2. ???
3. Profit!
2. Prehistoric monster goes on rampage.
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  #23  
Old 02-15-2012, 11:03 PM
XT XT is offline
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Maybe we could do it another way. From what I understand (from my Science Channel watcher perspective), you could basically reverse engineer a species using modern species and changing a protean here or turn on/off a gene there and get something that looks remarkably like a woolly mammoth, or maybe even a dinosaur. For instance, I saw a show where they did just this and got a chicken with, say, teeth...or a tail. Or scales. I assume you could do the same with modern elephant stock to get, well, shaggy wool (and other mammoth features).

I suppose that, technically, it wouldn't be a mammoth or a dinosaur, but it would sure look like one. Of course, it would probably take decades of trial and error and lots and lots of botched or transitional forms, but is there any reason why (assuming you wanted to spend the large amounts of money) you couldn't do it this way?

-XT
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Old 02-16-2012, 12:51 PM
Lumpy Lumpy is offline
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Originally Posted by xtisme View Post
Maybe we could do it another way. From what I understand (from my Science Channel watcher perspective), you could basically reverse engineer a species using modern species and changing a protean here or turn on/off a gene there and get something that looks remarkably like a woolly mammoth, or maybe even a dinosaur. For instance, I saw a show where they did just this and got a chicken with, say, teeth...or a tail. Or scales. I assume you could do the same with modern elephant stock to get, well, shaggy wool (and other mammoth features).

I suppose that, technically, it wouldn't be a mammoth or a dinosaur, but it would sure look like one. Of course, it would probably take decades of trial and error and lots and lots of botched or transitional forms, but is there any reason why (assuming you wanted to spend the large amounts of money) you couldn't do it this way?

-XT
Modern elephants are not descended from prehistoric mammoths or mastodons, so I don't think you could "regress" an elephant into a mammoth. Modern elephants are tropical species and mammoths were a cousin line that had evolved separately over millions of years for high-latitude cllimates. I supposed you could try to turn an elephant into a pseudo-mammoth but it really wouldn't be the same.
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Old 02-16-2012, 01:32 PM
XT XT is offline
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I always thought that elephants were more closely related. Does that mean there are no current animal descendents of the woolly mammoth? I suppose that means we'd be back to hoping for some viable DNA from one of the flash frozen carcasses.

-XT
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Old 02-16-2012, 01:53 PM
Darth Panda Darth Panda is offline
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I propose that we terraform Mars, populate it with extinct flaura and fauna, and see what happens. At minimum, it would confuse the hell out of people in the far future who reinvent society after near armageddon. (Uh, Bill, I think my Occam's razor is broken).

Also, we eat a few.

Last edited by Darth Panda; 02-16-2012 at 01:54 PM..
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  #27  
Old 02-16-2012, 04:42 PM
John W. Kennedy John W. Kennedy is offline
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Originally Posted by xtisme View Post
I always thought that elephants were more closely related. Does that mean there are no current animal descendents of the woolly mammoth? I suppose that means we'd be back to hoping for some viable DNA from one of the flash frozen carcasses.
Current elephants are not supposed to be descendants of mammoths, but mammoths have been moved further from mastodons and closer to elephants in recent charts. (My wife lately wrote a tragedy about the Parkman-Webster murder, and I spent some time helping her with the research.)
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  #28  
Old 02-16-2012, 06:33 PM
Kobal2 Kobal2 is offline
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Originally Posted by Khadaji View Post
But looking at it closely, you can absolutely see a big difference between the "trunk" and the animal.
Also the lack of gigantic tusks. It's quite noticeable.
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  #29  
Old 02-20-2012, 04:12 PM
RivkahChaya RivkahChaya is offline
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One thing about cloning, and elephant: as elephants are currently the closest non-extinct relative of mammoths, you'd have to use an elephant to gestate a mammoth clone. Nurse it, too. An elephant uterus might not support a mammoth fetus, but it's the only chance you have. Also, I think (but don't quote me) that Indian elephants are a little closer genetically, and domestic, so easier to work with, but African elephants are closer in size. I don't know what the implications of that are, I just assume that there are some.

Anyway, one thing that you can't fully clone, no matter what you are cloning, in mitochondrial DNA. Any time you clone, you have the host ovum, with the haploid nucleus you remove, and the donor cell, with the diploid nucleus that you transplant into the host ovum. Unless the host ovum, and the donor cell come from the same female (or relatives in a female line, like maternal siblings, mother and child), you eventual clone cell will not have the same mitochondrial DNA as the original. It will have the nucleus of the donor cell, but the mitochondrial DNA of the donor ovum.

Mitochondrial DNA doesn't contribute to the appearance of an individual, so clones look alike in spite of different mtDNA, but mtDNA is responsible for cell nourishment. We don't know that elephant mtDNA will allow mammoth cells to develop in utero just the way the would with the correct mtDNA. You could get a viable individual, but it wouldn't be a mammoth in any real sense. It also wouldn't really be an elephant-mammoth hybrid.

When we are trying to revive a recently deceased species, it's different, because we know enough about the species to know whether the resultant creature is a true creature-X, or some sort of mutant, due to a unique gestational situation for that particular DNA sequence.

I am not against knowledge for the sake of knowledge, but there really is no way to know that what we would make in this case would be a mammoth, and not a monster. I hope that there would be smaller experiments, with cloning close genetic relatives using the nuclear DNA of one, and the ovum and uterus of another-- smaller species whose natural life is much shorter than an elephant's, and what I presume a mammoth's would be, so that results that produce, say, limbs similar to a human with phocomelia, or (and I really hope not) neurological problems that cause pain, could be euthanized without such a great loss, either in terms of life span, of investment.
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Old 02-20-2012, 06:37 PM
Chronos Chronos is offline
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Quote:
Quoth xtisme:

Maybe we could do it another way. From what I understand (from my Science Channel watcher perspective), you could basically reverse engineer a species using modern species and changing a protean here or turn on/off a gene there and get something that looks remarkably like a woolly mammoth, or maybe even a dinosaur. For instance, I saw a show where they did just this and got a chicken with, say, teeth...or a tail. Or scales. I assume you could do the same with modern elephant stock to get, well, shaggy wool (and other mammoth features).

I suppose that, technically, it wouldn't be a mammoth or a dinosaur, but it would sure look like one. Of course, it would probably take decades of trial and error and lots and lots of botched or transitional forms, but is there any reason why (assuming you wanted to spend the large amounts of money) you couldn't do it this way?
Well, the scientific justification for trying to unextinctify mammoths would be to learn things about them that we don't already know, but this method can mostly only tell us things we do already know. So that would be one major objection there.
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