• Question: I'm not sure if anyone will know anything about this, but it has always been a dream of mine to clone mammoths and dodos from DNA leaft in bones and stuff... Would that be possible?

    Asked by richardsi to Amit, Emily, Jo, Martin, Paige on 16 Mar 2012.
    • Photo: Emily Bullen

      Emily Bullen answered on 16 Mar 2012:

      Hmm, interesting richardsi. I saw your question in the chat a couple of times, but didn’t have enough time to think about it…
      Now I have no idea about whether it would be, but I’ll give you my take on it…
      I reckon it’s theoretically possible, because DNA is the source of what we are. However, we’re nowhere near being able to do it. We need first to learn much more about stem cells, and about giving cells the right environment to grow on. We are making big progress in terms of scaffolds to allow cells to grow into organs, but not good enough yet.
      Here’s another question to you though… if we did make mammoths, what would you do with them? Keep them in a zoo? Let them loose? they would cause havoc and mess up the ecosystem wherever you put them…

    • Photo: Joanne Davies

      Joanne Davies answered on 16 Mar 2012:

      Hello richardsi. What an interesting question. 🙂

      My belief is that most things are possible.

      We can already grow human organs, we’ve cloned a sheep and I’m sure we could clone a mammoth and a dodo…but you probably know more about this subject than I do.

    • Photo: Paige Brown

      Paige Brown answered on 16 Mar 2012:

      Cool question richardsi! Actually, more and more research is being done that might make this possible. Certainly, researchers can already ANALYZE DNA that is this old, as long as it has been well preserved in ice, for example. Researchers can look at DNA from mammoths and dodos and tell more about what they looked like and where they came from. As far as cloning, researchers would have to find a compatible living cell/egg to transplant such DNA into, but living cells or eggs from mammoths and dodos are harder to come by! However, I think it might be possible for researchers to clone / create some kind of hybrid of a current bird species related to the dodo, for example, using ancient dodo DNA!

    • Photo: Amit Pujari

      Amit Pujari answered on 18 Mar 2012:

      Hi richardsi,

      Sorry not my area of work besides Emily, Jo and Paige have summed it up nicely.

    • Photo: Martin Wallace

      Martin Wallace answered on 19 Mar 2012:

      I have read about something similar to this where an exinct species was hoped to be brought back by breeding.
      Hundreds of years ago there was a creature called the Aurochs which lived in Europe. This was a huge cow-like animal that is the ancestor of most modern-day cattle – the last known aurochs died in 1627.
      The aurochs was a very large animal, standing up to 180cm at the shoulder, about the size of a fully grown man, with very long horns of up to 80cm long. In the 1920s two scientists – Heinz and Lutz Heck, thought they could bring back the aurochs by breeding together different types of modern cattle until they were able to re-create a new breed that was identical to the aurochs. Their theory was that because modern day cattle were ancestors of the aurochs, it should be technically possible to selectively breed the animals until you’d got back to the same DNA as it started.
      They never really succeeded but did get something at the end which looked very similar to the ancient aurochs – Heck cattle. This breed is one that has some of the colour, size and shape of their ancestors.
      This isn’t the same as re-creating a species, but it is possible through selective breeding to emphasize certain characteristics and behaviours in animals – so I suppose it may be possible to create a mammoth-like creature from elephants if you wanted to.
      As Emily says though, what would you do with it then?