A comprehensive analysis of the woolly mammoth genome revealed the genetic underpinnings of how the Ice Age giants survived the extreme cold temperatures during their times. Researchers also unveiled that they would be soon able to resurrect the long-extinct animals, but some of them question the usefulness of the project.
The genetic study showed that woolly mammoths had a cohort of adaptations to help them survive the extreme cold of the last Ice Age including a unique way of metabolizing insulin and building up body fat, a reduced size in ears to prevent unnecessary heat loss, and lower sensitivity to frigid temperatures.
The beasts went extinct about 10,000 years ago after the Ice Age glaciers melted. Some isolated specimens managed to survive about 6,000 more years on Siberia’s Wrangel Island. Both mammoths whose genome was analyzed were also found in Siberia. One of them died 60,000 years ago, while the other died 20,000 years ago, scientists claim.
The latest study may soon allow researchers to bring back to life the furry animals, the research team suggests. Although it may sound like a B-movie script, scientists claim that they have the necessary technology. And they even explained how they were planning to do it.
According to the team, mammoth genes would be glued to a living Asian or African elephant’s genetic material. As a result, a hybrid should be born. Nevertheless, chances of survival are still slim as out modern-day climate is no longer the climate these creatures were accustomed with. Yet, the research team hopes that the modified species would be able to survive in colder climates in locations that would shield them from possible conflicts with humans.
The hybrids will share common traits with their woolly-haired ancestors, Vincent Lynch of the University of Chicago explained.
“It won’t be that long till we’re technically able to do it, but whether we should is a different question. I don’t think we should”
noted Dr. Lynch during a recent interview.
Because the Ice Age beasts are closely related to the modern-day Asian elephants, the cloning process should be possible in technological terms. But there were significant differences between the two species. Mammoths, for instance, stored fat in a different way. They needed fat as an insulator to survive the extreme temperatures in the Arctic tundra, which could slip to minus 58 degrees F or minus 50 degrees C on a daily basis.
Additionally, the two species detect temperatures in an entirely different way. In mammoths, the cold sensing receptors are turned down which makes them less likely to be affected by extreme cold.
A paper on the mammoth’s genetic adaptations to cold temperatures was published Thursday in the journal Cell Reports.
Image Source: History