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Published:November 23rd, 2008 12:53 EST
Cold Case: Mammoths Unexpected Discovery

Cold Case: Mammoths Unexpected Discovery

By Clinton Van Inman

THE GREAT COLD CASE: THE MAMMOTH EXTINCTION

 

Just as modern forensics solves many cold case files with a little scrap of DNA evidence, modern science has recently secured DNA from a hair follicle from an extinct mammoth that may solve one of the greatest mysteries in paleontology.  Not only will this DNA unlock the mammoth genome blueprint that may solve the riddle of mammoth extinction, but this may lead to an unexpected discovery: bringing back to life these magnificent creatures in some future Pleistocene Park.  Not possible, you say?  The majority of genetic researchers armed with greater understanding and improving methods of genetic research believe that this possibility is very much possible in the coming years. This mammoth DNA, the first DNA ever secured from an extinct species, may be used to clone a mammoth much like the method depicted in Jurassic Park. Even if this method proves to be insurmountable another method utilizing genetic engineering may be possible once the mammoth genome project is completed.  This blueprint can be compared to modern elephants and a modern elephant can be genetic altered to restore the mammoths by triggering gene sequences, much the same as emus can be genetically altered to create a raptor.  I know that this science borders upon science fiction, but genetic engineering is advancing exponentially and Pleistocene Park may become a reality. 

 

My question is why would we want to do this especially when modern elephants are endangered?  Recently modern poachers have ruthlessly slaughtered hundreds of elephants just to acquire their prized ivory.  I can not foresee mammoths pent up in cages for human eyes to see because these creatures would need miles of open forests and savannahs.  I am sure that we punished enough the mammoths in the past and why would we want to do it again?

 

The real value of securing mammoth DNA is that it may lead to the reason of why they went extinct in the first place.  10,000 years ago these creatures perished from North America along with the majority of the larger mammals: giant tree sloths, saber tooth tigers, giant bears, horses, camels, and others.  No theory has been able to explain this Pleistocene extinction.  The common theory is that humans killed them, either to through hunting them to extinction or by introducing diseases.  The problem with this theory is that if American Indians did not hunt buffalos to extinction then why would they have hunted mammoths to extinction?  Climate changes coupled with changes in vegetation seem plausible. A rational theory of mass extinction must explain why these creatures in North America went extinct and not their relatives inAfrica.  Just as the mystery of the dinosaur extinction was resolved by an impact, the mystery of the Pleistocene extinction may be resolved by a similar impact. The KT boundary suggests an asteroid impact signaling the extinction of all dinosaurs.  The Black Matte, a layer in sediment that suggests a massive fire in North American about 13,000 years ago, may be the smoking gun of mammoth extinction.  Recently, Mammoth tusks have revealed iron and nickel impacts within them.  More research is needed here, but all of which suggests that a comet or an asteroid wiped out the mammoths as well as Clovis Man.  This DNA evidence may shed new light on the main reason for their extinction. Learning about mass extinctions in the past may prove helpful in preventing our own extinction.