Mammoths and DNA

Why would anybody want to clone a mammoth? Why not try to clone a passenger pigeon or dodo bird or something that we have a recent remnant of first?

  1. Because we have experience in cloning mammals, and not birds as of yet.

  2. Because it would be much more photogenic than any type of pigeon flightless or not.

  3. Because there is a lot more meat on a mammoth.

(clarification to previous post about mammoth meat)

One reasonably well preserved mammoth will yield more biological material than all the remains we have of dodos or passenger pigeons. I am unaware of there being more than a handful of dodo remains (of either species or the Rodriguez solitaires) still existing (except for sub-fossil bones on Mauritius), and aside from study skins (which are unlikely to provide any active cells) we have nothing much left of passenger pigeons. No one seems to have had the foresight to cryogenically preserve any…

There are groups working on other recently extinct animals as well, but a quagga doesn’t get the kind of press a mammoth does.

Actually, attempts are underway to clone a thylacine (Tasmanian wolf) from museum specimens. They became extinct around the turn of the century, and are much cooler than passenger pigeons.


In Son of Dex’s Staff Report Would Frankenstein’s monster be possible today?, he talks about DNAases that chop up the DNA soon after death. But to clone an animal, you need complete DNA. Chopped up bits won’t do the trick. How are the various teams mentioned above planning to get around this inconvenient fact?

They’re hoping to find intact DNA. In the case of the mammoth, the fact that it was frozen made it possible. As it turns out, they’re having a very difficult time finding any usable DNA.

I don’t know much about the project, but FWIW I saw a photo of a scientist with a thylacine fetus in a jar of formaldehyde. The formaldehyde would crosslink the DNAses, presumably deactivating them.

In theory, one could also do a “thylacine genome project” and either piece together the fragments or synthesise the entire genome, although that would be so logistically intense as to be beyond current technology.


Historic accounts of the Passenger Pigeon note that, while the flocks would darken the sky while passing, Passenger Pigeon crap would whiten the ground. This could turn popular opinion against restoring extinct species. Cleaning up after the mammoths would only require a shovel and a wheel barrow. I vote for the mammoth.
mipsman, Friend of the Pleistocene

I think if people are going to concentrate on rebuilding any extinct animal, I would like to see the sabretooth cat. I think that would be awesome, not to say that the mammoth wouldn’t be. Also, I think the Tazmanian tiger should find it’s way back onto our planet, it had some very interesting features.