Cloning a mammoth will be hard. Every animal requires a different procedure for cloning. Scientists haven't yet worked out how to clone an elephant let alone a mammoth.
Scientists also don't have any mammoth eggs to use. So they'll have to use elephant ones.
Cloning experiments require lots of eggs because there is so much trial and error in finding the right cloning conditions. The experiments in the mouse study used thousands of eggs. Getting 1000 elephant eggs is much more difficult than 1000 mouse eggs.
There may also be the problem that the eggs are not compatible between mammoths and elephants -- not all eggs work for all animals
. However, this may not be that big a problem as elephant and mammoth DNA are pretty similar.
Mammoth DNA is 99.4% Identical to Elephant DNA
In a new study
, scientists have managed to figure out about 80% of a mammoth's DNA. In other words, they have figured out the order of around three billion of its A's, G's, C's, and T's.
One of the tricky parts of sequencing long dead animals is contaminating DNA. While an animal has rested somewhere for thousands of years, lots of bacteria, animals, etc., have come and gone in the same spot. All of these beasts leave their DNA behind too.
Then when a scientist comes to read the dead animal's DNA, he or she gets all the other DNA too. This is even a bigger problem than it sounds because there can be a lot more contaminating DNA than there is "interesting" DNA.
In this study, the scientists were able to use DNA from mammoth hair. Hair is tough and any DNA inside is pretty well protected. This means scientists were able to use harsh methods to remove contaminating DNA without damaging the mammoth DNA.
The researchers found that the DNA of a mammoth is pretty closely related to that of a modern day elephant. Much closer than human and chimpanzee DNA, for example.
The researchers found that mammoth and elephant DNA were 99.4% identical. This is actually similar to what has been found so far between humans and Neanderthals
This similarity makes it much more likely that a mammoth nucleus will be tolerated by an elephant's egg. So it just might be possible to clone a mammoth.
For now scientists will have to keep focusing on frozen dead animals. But who knows what might be possible in the future. Maybe researchers can figure out how to clone animals stored in formaldehyde. Or from pelts. Then maybe humans can start reviving species they have managed to kill off over the years.