The American company Colossal, launched this Monday (13), has the challenge of making the woolly mammoth, extinct 4,000 years ago, set foot on the arctic ground again. The company will use genetic manipulation techniques to carry out the extinction of the species.
“Colossal will launch a practical and effective de-extinction model and will be the first company to apply advanced genetic modification techniques to reintegrate the woolly mammoth into the Arctic tundra,” the company said.
De-extinction, the concept of creating an animal similar to an extinct species, through genetics, is not unanimous among the scientific community. Some researchers doubt its viability or worry about the risks of its application.
Created by businessman Ben Lamm and geneticist George Church, Colossal will try to insert DNA sequences from woolly mammoths (obtained from remains preserved in Siberian soil) into the genome of Asian elephants, in order to create a hybrid species. The DNA of the Asian elephant and that of the woolly mammoth are 99.6% similar, says the company on its website.
The creation of these hybrid pachyderms and their reintroduction into the tundra should make it possible to “restore disappeared ecosystems, which could help to curb, or even reverse, the effects of climate change,” predicts Colossal.
The modified Woolly Mammoth could “give new life to the Arctic grasslands,” which, according to the company, capture carbon dioxide and eliminate methane, two greenhouse gases.
The biotech company was able to raise $15 million in private funds to achieve its goal, greeted with skepticism by some experts.
“Many problems will arise from this process,” biologist Beth Shapiro anticipated to the New York Times. “This is not a de-extinction. There will never be mammoths on Earth again. If it works, it will be a chimerical elephant, an entirely new, synthetic and genetically modified organism,” tweeted Tori Herridge, a biologist and paleontologist at the Natural History Museum in London.