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article imageScientists one step closer to resurrecting the woolly mammoth

By Megan Hamilton     Nov 17, 2014 in Science
Scientists may finally have what they need in order to resurrect a woolly mammoth, but there's one really big if:
They need to find the mammoth's complete DNA, and with a mammoth named Buttercup, they may have it.
If they can find that, then they're good to go.
Buttercup was discovered last year in Siberia, Quartz reports. Beautifully preserved when found, scientists have even been able to extract vials of liquid blood from the young mammoth.
Researchers at the South Korean biotech company SOOAM are testing the blood to see if they can find a complete set of DNA, but they have a backup plan if they can't find it. That's because scientists can still map specific mammoth traits onto an existing elephant genome. Traits like tusks and hair could be mapped, for instance.
Through carbon dating techniques, the scientists determined that Buttercup walked the tundra some 40,000 years ago, The New York Daily News reports. Then they conducted tests on her teeth and discovered that she was about 50 years old when she died. She also stood about eight feet tall.
Scientists think that she became trapped in a bog and was eaten by predators.
"Bringing back the mammoth either through clonic or genetic engineering would be an extremely long process," Insung Hwang, a South Korean geneticist, told the Daily News. "We're trying hard to make this possible within our generation."
There are, however, several ethical speed bumps along the way, Quartz reports. For starters, an elephant would have to serve as a surrogate mother, and this is tricky. The female elephant may die giving birth to the mammoth, and there's a good possibility that scientists may have to sacrifice several female elephants in the process, Quartz reports. There's also no guarantee that the mammoth would survive long.
Given the fact that both African and Asian elephants are perilously endangered, wouldn't these efforts be better spent finding more ways to save them?
An autopsy was conducted on Buttercup and the results will be shown on the Smithsonian Channel special, "How to Clone a Woolly Mammoth," which will debut on Nov. 29 at 8 p.m. EST.
More about resurrecting the woolly mammoth, scientists one step closer, Woolly mammoth, Mammoth, Scientists
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