The Japan Times
December 21, 1999

Mammoth resurrection eyed

Recovered rump skin may help bring back extinct beast

 

A group of Japanese and Russian scientists pursuing a dream of resurrecting the woolly mammoth revealed on Monday rump skin of the extinct species they found in a permafrost during an expedition in August.

The frozen mammoth skin will be sent to Kinki University's department of genetic engineering today and will be analyzed with the cooperation of a Kagoshima University laboratory.

"The possibility of extracting DNA from the skin is slim," said Akira Iritani, a professor at Kinki University in charge of the scientific aspect of the project. "But the condition of the skin is much better than we had expected and it is very difficult to obtain such a sample. Conducting the analysis itself is meaningful."

The Creation of Mammoth Association, established in 1997, said it has two possible strategies for resurrecting the mammoth.

One is to thaw mammoth sperm and inject it into the egg of an elephant and breed a hybrid. By repeating the procedure, with the hybrid replacing the elephant, it is hoped each generation of hybrids would look more like a mammoth.

Or, if frozen cells of the skin are in good condition, the scientists may try to clone a pure mammoth.

The rump skin, apparently of a woolly mammoth that died more than 30,000 years ago, had been kept frozen since it was found in the Siberian republic of Sakha, according to group leader Kazutoshi Kobayashi.

After negotiations with the Russian government, it was finally brought into Japan on Sunday.


PETR LAZAREV (left), director of the Academy of Sciences at the Museum of Mammoth in the Sakha Republic, holds up frozen skin from a woolly mammoth, while Kazutoshi Kobayashi of the Creation of Mammoth Association displays a photograph of the find at a Tokyo press conference Monday. SETSUKO KAMIYA PHOTO