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Neanderthal Man, the Sequel -Scientists Aim to Bring Extinct Species Back to Life

042_22theneanderthalposters_2 It’s happening again, scientists watch a Sci-Fi movie and then a few years later, they’ve figure out a way to recreate the outlandish ideas in real life. Who ever said Hollywood was good for nothing. Well, a lot of people actually, but they were wrong!

Remember how the fictional billionaire John Hammond resurrected the extinct dinosaurs in Steven Spielberg's Jurassic Park? Now real paleontologists are piecing together the complete genomes of long-dead species such as the woolly mammoth and the Neanderthals in an effort to bring them back to life.

Well-frozen DNA works best, they say. A team led by Stephan Schuster and Webb Miller at Pennsylvania State University, US, and Tom Gilbert at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark, is working on the genome of woolly mammoths preserved in the Siberian permafrost.

The technology is already there, so it won’t be reinventing the wheel, so to speak. Scientists have already completely deciphered the gene sequences for several living species, including humans, dogs, and mice. However, it does work a little differently in the case of long extinct species. Some scientists aren’t sure whether or not it's feasible.

Max Planck researcher Svante Paabo, who together with colleagues, is aiming to assemble a Neanderthal genome from bones preserved in arid caves, as noted in a paper appearing in this week's Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

Paabo says that it will not be too difficult to piece together much of the original genetic instructions. However, he is unsure whether the animals can be resurrected completely. Others are more hopeful.

"Retrieval of DNA from ancient specimens is relatively easy now," said Alan Cooper, of the University of Adelaide in Australia.

"I think it's definitely feasible to assemble these genomes. But it's going to be extremely hard work," National Geographic quoted Eske Willerslev of the University of Copenhagen in Denmark, as saying.

Cooper says that the most basic problem is that living animals package their DNA with proteins that help it wind up into chromosomes. This type of genetic packaging is crucial to making the DNA function properly, which is absent in these fossils.

Willerslev however, believes it is possible to bring back an extinct species like a mammoth if an extremely well preserved cell is found.

"That's extremely unlikely to happen, because all parts of a cell break down over time, even in mammoths that have been encased in ice since they died. But, researchers working on cloning have contacted me wanting to get a hold of mammoth tissue so they could try to clone a mammoth," he said.

According to Hendrick Poinar of McMaster University in Canada, "it's theoretically possible" to recreate a woolly mammoth.

"I think it's going to be done at some point. Once you have the genome of a mammoth, you could compare it with the genome of its closest relative, the Asian elephant. Then you could genetically engineer the elephant DNA, point by point, so that it matches the mammoth DNA," he said.

"Then, by inserting this modified DNA into an elephant's egg cell, and implanting it in an elephant's womb, you could create a modified elephant that's nearly identical to the original mammoth. Or it could become possible to make entire chromosomes from scratch. I wouldn't be surprised if, in ten years, you'd be able to synthesize chromosome-length DNA," he said.

"Five years ago everybody was saying you'd never be able to sequence the genomes of extinct animals ... but here we are. We're not that far away now."

So here’s what I’m wondering, if they are able to resurrect Neanderthals, will ABC get to use them in their proposed Geico Spin-off Caveman sitcom?

One more question, if this technology proves viable, can we stop worrying about the Holocene mass extinction period we’re in the middle of? I mean sure, most forms of life will be dead by the next century, but we can always bring back the ones we really like, right?



Cloneing Mamoths could only led to a higher econimy, tons of new restarants and many, many more fat ppl. (And better zoos. But it's still a good idea.)

that would be totally awesome. imagine mammoth steaks, they would be massive. that said, we dont eat elephants (even though we should).
And.. what if the neanderthals escaped into society and got into all kinds of mad-cap adventures.. with a smart asian kid as a sidekick! {Intanets? what that?}
hell yeah.

Hmmm... I remember two friends and I 'inventing' exactly this method of resurecting mammoths over 3.2 beers in the PX when I was on active duty in... must've been 1967.
I'm a little surprised that professor Paabo referred to Neanderthals as "animals" or is that an interpretation by the author of this column?
The moral issues that would be involved in raising an extinct human as an experimental lab animal are staggering. He might be a dynamite linebacker, though.

People who think we can recreate extinct creatures or bring back ones we are currently driving into extinction miss one major point. While the physical creature might be brought back to life, virtually all of what are ignorantly assumed to be "instinctive" behaviors in higher animals (pretty much anything warm blooded) are in reality 'animal culture', learned behaviors the young learn from parents or pack or herd. Baby birds raised without their parents don't learn songs distinctive to their species. The more intelligent the creature, the worse this situation gets. Adolescent male elephants growing up without the influence of older males, never learn 'proper' elephant behavior and are the ones who become 'rogue' elephants sometime forming 'gangs' of nasty young elephants bullying other animals around the ol' watering hole, dangerous to other elephants and humans and frequently wind up being shot. My point is, animals raised in a cultural vacuum never learn how to be a normal animal of their kind. A human child raised in isolation without contact with other humans could be a normal person and a mammoth raised in a laboratory setting will never learn 'how to be a mammoth'. It could never be a true mammoth, only a large, hairy, pathetic, lost, creature.

PS: the painting at the beginning of this article is vintage Frank Frazetta and not public domain. Did you really obtain permission from Frank to use it or are you violating his copyrights? Though he might not mind, that's thin ice.

Always seems to be THE critical word that gets dropped from a sentence... of course that one line should have read: "A human child raised in isolation without contact with other humans could NEVER be a normal person..."

I was wondering the same thing. How much does Frank Frazetta charge for the use of his Neanderthal poster?

Neanderthals?? i dont really understand what they are.. are they half man half ape like in planet of the apes?

well, Hi. I am a 10th grade student and I’m researching DNA extraction in extinct animals for my AP biology class and was wondering if you would answer some questions?

What are some disadvantages of DNA extraction in extinct animals besides the Jurassic park event?

What do you think we will learn from these animals?

How do you and or your team go about extracting DNA?

What have you learned already from your samples?

If you would e-mail me back that would be very helpful and I would greatly appreciate it. THANKS

I would just like to say that I think it would be incredable to meet a living neanderthal.

But I ask myself, we, Humans, are supposingly intellegent, but if a neanderthal is a distant cousin of ours, and they made fires and used stone tools,then they must have some sort of intellegence, right?

so would we be able to co-exsist with them or just keep them in a zoo???

75% of land on earth owes the way it looks to us, wether it be farming, logging, towns or citys, now if you werent to put this revived speices in a zoo then where would the go?

Does anyone know of somewhere where they could live, without troubleing us, or breaking laws.

Now, lets just say we found them a island to live, we have so many endangered speices and with our 75% dominace over this planet, is there enough room?

How do we know what they will eat, they n up causing more harm than good, right?

Like that bloke said in Jurrasic Park,
You think so much about wether you could.
You never stopped to think wether you should.

I personally think that we should bring back this extinct speices. But yet again, who is going to take responsibility for them?

They are a none the less an intellegent speices and if they decided to go against our rules and laws, which they have no clue about, could we hold them accountable, and punish them?

How do we know that after 100 years of bringing them back that we won't just kill them off, because of finacial reason's or whatever.

Now I have read up on neanderthals, and they went extinct due to a lack of intellegence after the last ice age, and that the speices had been in decline for over 100 thousand years, so do we really want a speices that is going to have to depend on us just to survive, especially in our mordern age?

We have enough problems at the moment and believe they should remain extinct.

Cloning an extinct elephant is one thing. Cloning a human
being is something else, even if they belong to an extinct
race. Recent discoveries at some Neanderthal sites show that
they WERE capable of symbolic behaviour. Probably, they were
no less intellegent--or for that matter, no more intellegent--
than living human beings. Cloning humans opens up a moral and
ethical can of worms. If they were created in a laboratory,
do they have the same rights as living people--or, for that
matter, any rights at all? My own opinion is that we should
stick to cloning elephants, not humans.

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