If Michael Crichton were still alive, he’d probably warn against delving into the creepy world of species reanimation. But that hasn’t stopped scientists from moving one step closer to bringing back the woolly mammoth from extinction–an animal that hasn’t walked the face of the earth for 4,000 years.
HAVE WE LEARNED NOTHING FROM JURASSIC PARK, PEOPLE?
Scientists are attempting to splice woolly mammoth DNA into that of elephants, using Crispr–a gene editing technology that sounds fake as fuck…but is shockingly real. The hypothetical creature, which unofficially dons the hybrid name “mammophant,” is apparently not as far out as one might imagine: Estimations predict that it might come to life in approximately just two years time.
Earlier this week, Professor George Church spoke about the efforts in Boston, at the annual meeting for the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Church explained that the de-extinction project is being pursued largely for its potential to combat global warming. He says, “They keep the tundra from thawing by punching through snow and allowing cold air to come in.” Church continued, “In the summer they knock down trees and help the grass grow.”
Apparently, this would prevent (or at least stall) the melting of the tundra, therefore slowing the release of damaging greenhouse gasses.
Furthermore, the mammophant might be able to save the Asian elephant from its very own extinction, by providing an “alternative future,” whatever the fuck that is.
As with many scientific breakthroughs, there are quite a few ethical questions at play here. Could these franken-animals pose unanticipated risk to other animals, or humans? What kind of life would these creatures face if they were brought into this world; would they simply be tools for scientists, ultimately doomed to lead unfortunate and unfulfilled lives?
Then, there’s the questions of how and where to implant the mammophant embryo, if and when it is successfully developed. The most obvious choice would be in the womb of an Asian elephant (the animal’s closest surviving relative). However there is a moral argument to be made for avoiding the potential harm that this could cause to the hosting mother, as well as to the first mammophant, who might be rejected or neglected by its mother and/or other elephants who do not recognize or associate with it.
Furthermore, if an alternative route is pursued (an artificial womb), then the first mammophant would be deprived of any type of interaction with its “mother,” and given that both elephants and woolly mammoths are highly social animals, this could be truly detrimental to the creature itself.
Will we ever see woolly mammoths or dinosaurs or saber-toothed tigers roam the earth again? Maybe we should just stick to protecting the endangered species already on the planet (something Congress might be in the process of obstructing), before trying to bring back those that have been toast for centuries.