Scientists “resurrected” a mammoth gene by transplanting it into a human kidney cell in the lab. The gene, called TRPV3, is known to affect temperature sensation and hair growth regulation. When they added the mammoth TRPV3 gene to a human cell, the gene produced a protein that was less responsive to heat than modern elephants. In other words, mammoths’ unique TRPV3 gene may have contributed to their cold tolerance.
The fossilized blood cells were found in the claw of an a unidentified theropod (a dinosaur group which includes T. rex and velociraptor). The collagen was found in several other bones, including ribs from unknown species or genuses. Furthermore, molecular analysis of the fossilized tissues (using a tool called a mass spectrometer) has revealed the fossils contain some of their original biological proteins and amino acids—molecules that are thought to degrade completely after 4 million years.
The question “how far should we go to bring back a lost species?” opens a deeper discussion that requires us to consider what kind of world we want now and for the future. In answering, I am considering the world of nature and envisioning the distant future, the one we think of the least. Five or ten thousand years almost encompasses the depth of human history, and we now recognize our actions will impact planetary biodiversity over the next five to ten thousand years. With increasing capability, we are altering the future of life on Earth and are gaining vast new ways of doing so. We must consider what we want going forward.
An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. A US team is already attempting to study the animals’ characteristics by inserting mammoth genes into elephant stem cells. They want to find out what made the mammoths different from their modern relatives and how their adaptations helped them survive the ice ages. The new genome study has been published in the journal Current Biology.
World-leading biologist Stephen O’Brien, currently in New Zealand, has looked at the DNA extracted from blood, feathers and saliva of threatened animals for almost four decades. The information has helped conservationists to anticipate the hidden dangers, such as inbreeding and disease, that could wipe a species out.
Whanganui Regional Museum natural history curator Dr Mike Dickison said resurrecting the moa in areas such as the Dart River Valley near Wanaka where they once thrived, could be vital to the survival of New Zealand’s remaining native bush.
Sea World’s reproductive center has succeeded in delivering the world’s first penguin chick as a result of artificial insemination. This is a promising development in helping to rebuild populations of endangered penguin species and is a big step forward in the perfection of techniques essential to the de-extinction of the moa.