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Can we clone extinct animals?

Launcher einstein Australia
Status Closed Mediated Closed 3 years, 5 months ago
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zoology / animals Extinctions


What's the inhibiting factor that's stopping us from cloning extinct animals? The Japanese claim that they will have cloned a woolly mammoth in the next 5 years: Can we expect to see the cloning of long extinct species, like dinosaurs in Jurassic Park?

Is there a bank that contains the genes of animals like the one used in Norway for plants?

Answers (3)

  • Moriarty
    Aug 13, 2011

    Theoretically speaking, the cloning of an extinct animal is quite viable given improvements of current cloning technology. In 2009 an attempt by scientists at cloning an actual extinct animal was successful (albeit short lived) when a domestic goat gave birth to a now extinct Pyrenean Ibex (known locally as the bucardo and declared extinct in 2000) although it lived only about seven minutes after birth from breathing difficulties due to a lung defect.[1]

    Of course in practical terms this attempt was a failure (as were most other attempts that have resulted in live young but with apparent physical flaws like delays in physical development, malformed hearts and weak immune systems[2]) it cannot be ignored that given a few more advancements in the technology it may be possible to see a cloned extinct or endangered animal reach adulthood.

    Although many researches believe that the DNA in the frozen tissue samples of the Woolly Mammoth is too damaged to even be used for cloning, a recent milestone by Teruhiko Wakayama from the RIKEN Center for Developmental Biology in Kobe, Japan who was successful in cloning mice from a sample that was frozen for 16 years at -20 degree temperatures without the use of preservative agents (simulating the conditions of permafrost) had given the attempt at bringing the Woolly Mammoth back a big boost. [3]

    Of course there are still a great number of limitations to present cloning technology such as the present technology's inefficiency (the extinct Ibex's DNA was implanted in 493 eggs, which only 57 of which were good enough to be implanted into surrogates and only 5 of which lasted trough pregnancy with only one being born alive), according to Michio Kaku in his work Visions: How Science will revolutionize the 21st Century, the advancement of genetic technology goes hand in hand with the development of computing technology that will become powerful enough to break the genetic code.[4]

    Another limitation is the ethical concerns of cloning, especially for endangered species. The belief is that attempts at cloning would take funding away from conservation efforts and that cloning would not really produce a gene pool diverse enough to support natural breeding. [2]

    Whether or not we would be able to see a “Pleistocene Park” within 5 years is still up for debate but believing that we would be able to clone an extinct species is not that far-fetched.

    I believe that your second question has been answered appropriately by gethin. There is also another project called “The Frozen Ark” by the University of Nottingham's School of Biology in the United Kingdom. You can visit their website for more information at this address:


  • gethin
    Jul 17, 2011

    For your last question, yes there is a seedbank for animals. In California there is a place called "The Frozen Zoo" - They keep skin samples from endangered animals that they hope they'll be able to bring back to life one day.

  • nathanww
    Jul 20, 2011

    There are a few limiting factors, actually. The technology we would use to clone an extinct animal is called "nuclear transfer", because it works by transferring the nucleus from an adult cell to an egg cell(a good overview is at Unfortunately, nuclear transfer is fairly inefficient at producing healthy, viable clones, and also doesn't clone all the DNA of an organism(the "mitochondrial DNA" is found in the cytoplasm and is not transferred in nuclear transfer).

    Additionally, cloning any extinct animal would require a compatible "surrogate" mother(from a different species that still existed) to carry it to term. We aren't currently able to predict whether or not two species would be compatible, or how it would affect the development and health of the clone.

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