Wooly mammoths could once more roam the earth. You heard me right. Wooly. Mammoths.
Colossal is a new project in which wooly mammoths are being revived- well not really revived as they have been extinct for over 4,000 years. Rather, they will be respawned as a “hybrid” of Asian elephants, with whom they share 99.6% of DNA makeup and African elephants. The African elephant will be used as the surrogate parent to avoid any additional pressure on Asian elephants, who are already endangered. Scientists estimate that they can produce an embryo of a wooly mammoth in a mere six years.
Troop of mammoths in the Ice Age . Fine Art. Britannica ImageQuest, Encyclopædia Britannica, 25 May 2016. quest.eb.com/search/108_250586/1/108_250586/cite. Accessed 11 Oct 2021.
They hope that wooly mammoths will contribute to the fight against climate change. In the northern hemisphere, permafrost is melting at an alarming rate, and this releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere as a byproduct. Scientists hope that wooly mammoths will compress the grass and uproot trees, uncovering permafrost.The grassland might reflect light, keeping the ground at a lower temperature, preventing permafrost from melting. This idea is based upon research of thousands of years ago when the behemoths roamed the earth. Permafrost was stable then, and scientists hope that the climate will return to that state.
There are concerns that mammoths might not fit into the climate well, due to different plants and animals living alongside them. However, when wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone, it had a tremendous positive effect on the flora and fauna of the ecosystem. Scientists hope the same will happen with the mammoths being reintroduced to the tundra ecosystem.
However, the $15,000,000 project has its potential consequences. Some believe that charismatic animals might lead to the spawning of unwanted pathogens. Others explain the mammoths might not inherit the same personalities and behaviors of their ancestors. These are two of the most pressing issues with the advent of mammoths.
At this point, it is wise to consider the benefits versus the negative consequences. While I am very excited at the idea of wooly mammoths being revived, I worry about how it may affect our climate, with it already being so stressed. Instead, the CRISPR technology can be used on endangered species and working on keeping them alive.
Now more than ever, these crazy ideas are important and can lead to new creations and technologies to combat climate change.