back to article Mammoth wool gives up genetic secrets

A new technique has allowed researchers to extract genetic information from the hair shafts of ancient woolly mammoths. The team behind the breakthrough, based at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark, says the method should also work on other well-preserved mammal specimens, the BBC reports. It is well known to all watchers …


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  1. Ian Ferguson

    Bring 'em back

    So how much detail have they got? Have they got enough to construct a mammoth foetus in an elephant egg? Or will they have to fill in the gaps with frog DNA and create some kind of fearsome monster that escapes from its island enclosure and stomps round squashing Americans?

  2. A. Merkin

    Supersized Meal

    Yes; bring them back... If we're descended from Mammoth hunters, they will probably taste particularly delicious to us.

    Sign me up for a McMammoth burger!

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    OK, I give up, so what ARE the secrets?

    Dum di dum di dum.... waiting....

  4. Doug Jenkins

    how would you like your danish?

    ummm Ian, the University of Copenhagen did the research...and Bush hasn't invaded them in order to be 'stomped' least not yet.

  5. Tawakalna

    If they are coming back..

    ..then I for one give my wholehearted support to our new prehistoric pachyderm masters, helping them find rebel humans (hopefully Americans) to stomp on, finding the best shoots for them to eat, unwrinkling their trunks etc, in the hope that in the new woolymammothcracy that is set up, I have a place of influence and importance! 4 legs good, 2 legs bad!

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    RE OK, I give up, so what ARE the secrets?

    Well we now know that the woolly mammoth was woolly.

  7. Geoff Mackenzie

    DNA Database

    I know they want every living man, woman and child on it, but backdating it this far seems unreasonable.

  8. Greg Weaver

    Aw, c'mon ya limeys, ya know...

    ...that us Yanks will clone a mammoth first. Because "Bigger is better and biggest is best" is the American way, whether we're talking about bombs, cars, or tits*.

    If you Brits cloned mammoths, chavs would film themselves happy slapping them, the McCann's would say that they'd seen one leaving the Pria del Luz with a blond child held in its trunk, and your chefs would ignore all that tasty meat and find some disgusting dish to make with the spleen, probably with onions.

    Us Americans will breed them even bigger, figure out how to mount twin 50 cals and a beer cooler on them, and use them to invade Canada. We'll also be grilling the biggest T-bones you've ever seen.

    * Unfortunately, this trend also seems to be affecting the asses of Americans lately as well, much to our chagrin and the delight of diet pill and book manufacturers.

  9. Ishkandar

    @Greg Weaver

    It is very possible that, by the time the Americans get to cloning enough woolly mammoths for use, the average American will be heavy enough to break their spines is they sat on those poor creatures !! Perhaps you could harness them to pull your SUVs chariot fashion !!

  10. Franklin

    Hold the T-bones...

    ...they ain't coming back just yet. If the researchers were only able to extract mitochondrial DNA, nobody's going to be cooking up any wolly mammoths.

    Mitochondrial DNA is DNA found within (daha!0 the mitochondria, the cellular powerhouses inside modern cells that were once, eons ago, free-living organisms. This DNA is entirely separate from the DNA inside cellular nuclei that makes us hairless and mammoths wooly. Mitochondrial DNA is useless for making anything except mitochondria, which aren't even complete cells.

  11. Greg

    Iskandar's right

    ...but it could be a self healing problem: fat guy gets on mammoth, mammoth gets mad, fat guy get speared with tusks and stepped on. Besides, as far as our mammoth cavalry goes, the combat arms sections of our military does stay in pretty good, non-back-breaking shape. Or we'll just GM them to be bigger.

    On a serious note, I was under the impression that they chose to work on the mitochondrial DNA over the cellular DNA because Mitochondrial is so rarely preserved, in order to show how useful their hair-grinding technique was. It sounds to me like getting cellular DNA from this hair is a cakewalk, and they wanted to show off.

    I want my 50 lb T-bones!

  12. J

    mammoth cavalry?

    Been done, in the "Lord of the Rings". Although they used to call them "Oliphaunts" or something like that -- clearly a misnomer if I've ever seen one.

    OK, they got the mitochondrial (0.0005% of the cell's genetic material). But someone has gotten -- and sequenced -- quite a bit of the nuclear one a while ago (it's in Nature or Science somewhere, but I'm lazy to search now) from permafrost preserved specimens. Why bother with hair if you've got the beast in the freezer? :-)

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I know a street in New York City where you can find a living mammoth right now. I think he's got a little sister too, she's the one with the pink bow. They sing.

  14. David Wilkinson

    Don't think they will be brining anything back anytime soon.

    If you ever get bored look up how difficult it is to artificially inseminate an elephant? Its next to impossible and for some reason the semen can't survive being frozen.

    They haven't figured out yet to use such techniques to preserve existing endangered species, we are a long way off from resurrecting any.

  15. Danny Thompson

    So, let me see if I have got this right .....

    The plan being proposed by our good friends here is to reconstruct our woolly chums from the DNA that they left behind thousands of years ago.

    Excellent! That makes for a difference between driving everything else on this planet into extinction.

    And then ..... we are going to kill and cook them?

    Agent Smith was right - we humans are a planetary virus.

    Do we get chips with each ordert?

  16. CharleyBoy

    ancient humans?

    "... and even ancient humans, held in the vaults of the world's museums."

    Aha! So that's what the Government is planning on doing instead of continuing state pensions.

  17. john mann

    re: Aw, c'mon ya limeys, ya know...

    ...that us Yanks will clone a mammoth first. Because "Bigger is better and biggest is best" is the American way.

    Nonsense that's just a myth you like to peddle.

    *We* always had a man-sized billion, not that wimpy thing you use.

    Oh, and our pints are bigger than yours as well, which is handy for beer, not something you'd necessarily be familiar with.

  18. Lukin Brewer

    Too tough for a t-bone?

    Does anyone eat elephant meat? Did anyone do so before they became a protected species? Elephant meat *could* be so tough and 'orrible that not even sausage manufacturers could do anything with it.

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