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Discovery raises mammoth questions


Science never really excited me all that much, even when I got the opportunity to slice and dice a worm in 10th-grade biology class.

But, with all due respect to this newspaper, my new favorite source for information is a website called LiveScience, which appears to have been born as the result of a one-night stand between National Geographic and the National Enquirer. Where else could you find, coexisting on one page, headlines including:

• New Theory on Why Men Love Breasts

• Ants Ring Woman’s Doorbell Repeatedly

• Is Mars Infested with Pareidolia Rats?

And, while I didn’t see anything involving Elvis or rumors of a romantic link between Justin Bieber and one or more of the Kardashians, the same edition of LiveScience gave extensive coverage to the possibility that eventually the earth once again would be roamed by mammoths.

That story was sparked by the discovery off the coast of Siberia of the body of a mammoth that apparently had fallen into an icy lake and was flash frozen. When they jabbed the corpse with a sharp object, they were surprised to find that blood flowed out.

This created speculation that Jurassic Park wasn’t all that fictional, after all, and that the mammoth could be cloned. The way the process would work, apparently, is that the DNA would be combined with the egg of an elephant and implanted into the pachyderm. With any luck, a little mammoth would emerge two years later, which would be an amazing thing, although it might put mama elephant in the uncomfortable position of having to explain to papa elephant why their baby was so hairy.

Scientists stressed that there still was a long way to go and that the undertaking would be, well, mammoth.

“To clone a mammoth by finding intact cells — and, more importantly, an intact genome — is going to be exceptionally difficult, likely impossible,” said a paleogeneticist at the Swedish Museum of Natural History. “Finding this mammoth makes it slightly less impossible.”

Then there’s the ethical question of whether science should be messing with that kind of stuff at all. Making mammoths extinct may have been part of Mother’s Nature’s grand plan to remove large masses of matter to make room for more Starbucks stores.

And where will it end? There’s already talk of re-creating Carolina parakeets, saber-toothed cats and gastric brooding frogs. Not to mention the Tasmanian tiger, which looked like a creepy dog with a rat’s tail and probably deserves to be extinct.

Finally, it raises the question of whether there really is any need for mammoths and gastric brooding frogs.

Although I guess you could ask the same thing about Justin Bieber and the Kardashians.


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