Smart Stuff with Twig Walkingstick: Mammoth Effort (for the Week of Sept. 23, 2007)

September 24, 2007

Q. Dear Twig: What did you mean, ‘Bring back the mammoth'? Is someone going to bring back a mammoth?

A.: Eh, probably not. At least, not anytime soon, if ever.

Scientists in Russia and Japan are trying to do it. They think if they can find DNA (the genetic material of cells) from a not-too-eaten, not-too-rotten, nicely frozen mammoth they can do it — they could clone a new mammoth (make an identical genetic copy of one). But for now that's a really big if. You could say it's even a mammoth one.

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!

Ahem.

Scientists think millions of dead mammoths (extinct elephant relatives) lie buried in the cold Arctic tundra. But so far none of the ones dug up have had any intact DNA. Why?

"Almost from the instant of death," says author Scott Weidensaul, "DNA starts to degrade." Freezing, he adds, is doubly hard on it.

The search and the work go on.

For now save your peanuts.

Twig

P.S. Hooked on lost species? Read Weidensaul's very cool The Ghost with Trembling Wings.

Notes: Twig's past three entries (four, counting this one) have been about Ice Age megafauna. Get caught up at http://www.ag.ohio-state.edu/~news/archive.php?series=science. Sources this time included Weidensaul's Ghost with Trembling Wings (North Point Press, 2002); BBC News, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/3075381.stm; and National Geographic News, http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2005/04/0408_050408_woollymammoth_2.html. For more about Ice Age megafauna and what happened to it, try The Call of Distant Mammoths by Peter D. Ward (Springer, 1998).

"Smart Stuff with Twig Walkingstick" published by The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences — specifically, by the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center (OARDC) and Ohio State University Extension, the research and outreach arms, respectively, of the College — is a weekly column for children about science, nature, farming and the environment. It's written at a 4th-grade reading level. For details, to ask Twig a question, and/or to receive the column free by mail or e-mail, contact Kurt Knebusch, CommTech, OSU/OARDC,1680 Madison Ave., Wooster, OH 44691, knebusch.1@osu.edu, (330) 263-3776. Online at http://extension.osu.edu/~news/archive.php?series=science.

 

Author(s): 
Kurt Knebusch