On November 29th, the Smithsonian Channel will air a special entitled “How to Clone a Woolly Mammoth”. This episode is based on the remarkable 2013 discovery in Siberia of an almost complete woolly mammoth (Mammuthus primigenius); they named her Buttercup. Buttercup was a member of an amazing species that roamed northern North America and Eurasia throughout the Pleistocene. Woolly mammoths are not the same thing as a mastadon — mastadons are much more ancient (see photo below from Wikipedia comparing woolly mammoths – right – and mastadons – left). Woolly mammoths are a more recent (albeit extinct) species that is actually more closely related to Asian elephants than African elephants are!
In 2003, a mitochondrial genome was sequenced of woolly mammoths. This information, in combination with the ample genetic data yielded from the Siberian remains discovered last year have led some researchers to evaluate whether we should clone Buttercup.
My answer: don’t do it. Just, don’t.
In my (unsolicited) opinion, this is yet another example of the hubris of Homo sapiens. We have claimed dominion over extant species, now extinct...?!?!
Image above from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Woolly_mammoth