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Russia, South Korea sign agreement to resurrect woolly mammoth

Woolly mammoth recreation in a museum
Woolly mammoth recreation in a museum. Photo by: Bigstock Photo.

Last week Russian and South Korean educational facilities signed an agreement to work together to bring back the woolly mammoth (Mammuthus primigenius) from extinction. The project will be headed by Hwang Sooam of South Korea’s Bioengineering Research Institute and will involve implanting a woolly mammoth embryo into a modern elephant.

The first, and largest, barrier to success is finding woolly mammoth tissue with undamaged DNA. Once that is collected from frozen remains in the Siberian permafrost, scientists would replace the nuclei of an elephant egg with the woolly mammoth DNA. It would then be implanted in an Indian elephant (Elephas maximus indicus), and, if all goes according to plan, birthed some 22 months later.

Sooam was the first scientist to clone a dog seven years ago.

During their heyday, woolly mammoths roamed northern Europe, Asia, and North America. They largely vanished around 10,000 years ago, however a relict population survived on an Arctic island off Russia, Wrangel Island, until about 2,000 BCE. Researchers believe that the woolly mammoth went extinct due to the combined impact of climate change and overhunting by humans.

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