The woolly mammoth had three separate layers of fur, and grew upwards of 11 feet tall.

Andrew Terefenko

Opinions Editor

 

It has been sixteen years since Dolly’s escapades populated worldwide headlines, leaving humanity and cloned sheep enthusiasts alike in awe of the scientific marvel. In her wake, very little news has graced us on the biological duplication front, but that wait is about to be over.

Russian and South Korean scientists are teaming up to resurrect a mammal that hasn’t had the pleasure of seeing our blue sky for over 3000 years, the woolly mammoth. Using bones found in the permafrost-locked depths of Siberia, scientists in both nations have agreed to use cells from the remains to incubate a new living mammoth.

The Korean scientist spearheading the project, Hwang Woo-Suk, holds the honour of creating the world’s first cloned puppy, aptly named Snuppy, six years ago. Though the researcher has received some negative press for faking research into artificial human stem cell creation, his credentials in the field of animal cloning are solid, and will be a great asset to the project.

With the fact-of-the-matter content out of the way, the time has come to discuss the ramifications: have we fully considered the consequences of reviving an extinct species?

The race became extinct because it rapidly lost the climate that it was most accustomed to, in addition to overhunting by post-Ice Age humans. If we brought back even one specimen, is there a guarantee that we could find a climate suitable enough for it to live comfortably, or even at all, for its regular lifespan?

To what end is this research being conducted? Is it purely for scientific curiousity? If so, we have already seen that animal cloning is possible through the efforts of sheep cloning over a decade ago. Is it to further research into the conditions that the mammoth had to live in to aid our understanding of living in inhospitable environments? In that case, it can probably be conducted without toying with the lives of a species that has long departed this planet, which is no longer fit for them.

The deal also brings to mind a significant environmental issue. If the cloning is successful, there might be an effort by animal rights groups to reintroduce the creature back into the wild, which would be a cause for extreme distress in our fragile arctic ecosystems. It is theorized that the mammoth population was responsible for lowering the arctic temperatures, due to their consumption of heat-producing birch trees. If we were to reintroduce this coniferous carnivore back into the a Canadian arctic wasteland, we would be at risk of contributing to a climate shift in the area, which might not be the worst idea, given the rate of global warming, but is still not a consequence we want to be dealing with immediately in our current temperature crisis. If you need any indication, look no further than the unseasonably warm winter just behind us.

Without further research into the lifespan expectancies of these clones, and ample consideration of our application of the research, it is too soon and rash to begin the cloning processes on a species that we personally kicked off our world.

There are ample ethical questions as well over whether we have a right to bring an animal into the world alone with no stable future in sight, and in the face of much more immediately-useful research that can be conducted. But that is a discussion best left for those who disagree with playing God.

This is all not to say that the world is not ready for the woolly mammoth. The woolly mammoth is not ready for our world.

Subscribe to our Mailing List

© 2022 The Silhouette. All Rights Reserved. McMaster University's Student Newspaper.
magnifiercrossmenu