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Woolly mammoths to be cloned by Russian and Japanese scientists

Woolly mammoths, an extinct Ice Age mammal, may return after a cloning experiment.
Woolly mammoth clone experimentEnlarge
Scientists hope to have a cloned woolly mammoth within five years. (GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP/Getty Images)

In the next few years zoos may be rolling out the red carpet for a new member: the woolly mammoth.

Russian and Japanese scientists will begin to experiment the process of taking the woolly mammoth out of extinction, the BBC reported. The scientists claim that a thigh bone found in August contains well-preserved marrow cells, which could be the jumping off point for the experiment.

Woolly mammoths looked like the Chewbacca of elephants-- enormous, with tusks and covered in tons of hair. They lived during the Ice Age and were primarily found in North America and Eurasia.

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The experiment itself sounds very Jurassic Park. The scientists, including Russian experts from Yakutsk’s Mammoth Museum, hope that within five years a woolly mammoth will be cloned from the marrow, Discovery News reported. Scientists have been looking for undamaged marrow for years for woolly mammoths. Currently they are analyzing the marrow, extracted from the mammoth’s femur, found in Siberian permafrost soil.

Ideally, the next step would be for the scientists to extract a nucleus from the marrow of the thigh and insert it into the egg of an African elephant, NBC News reported. Then the scientists would implant the cloned embryos into the wombs of mama elephants for gestation. This is the same technique used to clone mammals such as Dolly the sheep, pigs, cats, dogs and monkeys, NBC News reported.

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But many skeptics wonder if this can really be done. Cloning incidents have had mixed results. In 2009 a recently extinct Pyrenean ibex was brought back to life using 10-year-old DNA from animal’s skin, the BBC reported. However its life was cut extremely short and the ibex died within minutes of its birth due to breathing difficulties.

The Roslin Institute, which gave birth to the infamous Dolly the sheep, doesn’t conduct cloning experiments anymore but has said it would be extremely unlikely for this woolly mammoth experiment to be successful, especially using an elephant surrogate, the BBC reported.

The report published by the Institute said the success rate for the experiment would be in the range of one to five percent.

Read more at GlobalPost: Photos: Endangered animals on the IUCN Red List

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatches/globalpost-blogs/weird-wide-web/woolly-mammoths-be-cloned-russian-and-japanese-scientists

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