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Jurassic Park for Real? - Cloning Extinct Animals

Updated on April 30, 2015

Cloning the Extinct Tasmanian Tiger

Geneticists have cloned sheep, horses, cats and dogs. The next step it seems is to bring back the dead because scientists are currently working on resurrecting through cloning an animal extinct since 1936.

The Australian Tasmanian tiger, or Thylacine, was hunted to extinction 79 years ago, but now geneticists think they can bring back the fierce predator using DNA from stuffed museum specimens.

"Bringing back an extinct creature would unlock the door to progress. Who knows what other 'impossible' things may be on the other side?"

~Michael Archer

Thylacine also known as the Tasmanian Tiger
Thylacine also known as the Tasmanian Tiger

Cloning Project Background

The project is headed by evolutionary biologist Michael Archer, dean of science at the University of New South Wales in Australia. In collaboration with colleagues at Australian universities and U.S. genetics labs, Archer hoped to bring this carnivourous marsupial back from extinction using DNA from an infant female preserved in alcohol since 1866.

Part of the difficulty lies in restoring the degraded DNA, in fact Archer's first team failed to extract quality DNA from the infant female and the project was scrapped in February 2005. But with a new team, new technology and a new strategy to recover genes from the bones and teeth of thylacines in museum specimens the project was revived again in October 2005.

If Archer's new team can figure out how to restore degraded DNA there is a chance the Tasmanian tiger could live again. What's next...the Woolly Mammoth? Actually that's not so far fetched...in fact there are projects underway to clone the mammoth as well as the Spanish bucardo goat.

What should we do about cloning?

With each breakthrough in cloning research comes increased controversy. Should we be messing with nature? On one hand there may be a great number of discoveries that lead to better health or the preservation of endangered species, on the other hand there is a great moral dilemma involved when anyone mentions human cloning or genetically modified food.

What is your opinion on clone research?

See results

How to Clone an Extinct Animal

The basic steps to clone an animal are in theory pretty straight forward. Here are the six steps to creating a clone.

  1. Obtain Sample DNA:

    Find cells from the animal's tissue, bones, teeth, hair, etc.. Then extract the DNA from the cell's nucleus.

  2. Rebuild Genome:

    Reassemble the DNA of the extinct animal using the genome of a related living animal as a guide. In the tiger's case that is the Tasmanian devil.

  3. Swap DNA:

    Remove the ovarian eggs of the related animal and replace their nuclei with the restored genetic material from the extinct animal.

  4. Zap the Eggs:

    Fuse the nuclei with the eggs and trigger cell devision by shocking them with electric current or treating them with chemicals.

  5. Implant the Embryos:

    When the embyos have grown to 200 cells in size transfer them into the womb of the related animal for gestation.

  6. Delivery:

    The surrogate mother gives birth. The extinct species is reborn once again. It is scientists hope that the necessary survival skills will be coded into its genes.

Dolly the sheep, National Museums of Scotland, Edinburgh
Dolly the sheep, National Museums of Scotland, Edinburgh

In 1997 the world was taken by surprise with the news that scientists in Scotland had cloned the first mammal! The sheep Dolly (named after Dolly Parton actually, yes really) was the star of the media for a long time.

This event sparked a huge scientific and moral debate, can we now clone humans? Or extinct animals, or the less savory characters from history... What should be allowed and what should be forbidden? What do you think?

Join the Cloning Debate - Let the battle begin!

Since I've created this little page on cloning extinct animals I've had some comments from many people voicing their opinion on the merits or morals of cloning. And the above poll results show that not everyone is very keen on the idea of cloning especially when it involves human cloning.

So let's start a little debate so all voices can be heard. Is cloning the future and will it lead to many improvements in life? Or, is cloning something better left alone, something that may lead to the end of humans on earth?

How do you feel about cloning?

Further Reading About the Tasmanian Tiger

Can the Woolly Mammoth be Cloned?
Can the Woolly Mammoth be Cloned?

Woolly Mammoth: Back Again?

Jarkov mammoth may be the key

In 1999, French polar explorer Bernard Buigues and mammoth experts Dick Mol and Larry Agenbroad unearthed a 23,000 pound block of permafrost containing the remains of a woolly mammoth near the Bolchaya Balakhnya River in Siberia.

Scientists were hopeful that the block of frozen earth would yield an intact mammoth carcass. The possibility led a number of genetic research facilities around the world to propose extracting DNA from the soft tissues of the extinct creature with the goal of cloning it back to life.

Unfortunately for those scientists interested in cloning the mammoth there was very little soft tissue and bone remaining. As in the case of the Tasmanian tiger there was just too little quality DNA to give cloning much of a chance.

But if scientists can discover a technique to restore degraded DNA the first major hurdle in cloning the mammoth will be overcome. That would just leave several other unknown factors including the gestation period of the mammoth. Will it match that of the Asian elephant, the mammoth's closest living relative? Not to mention there is a bit of a size difference between the woolly mammoth and the Asian elephant; what kind of problems will this cause for the surrogate mother?

All in all the odds are currently stacked against a successful clone, but with the ever expanding developments in genetics some day in the next 20-30 years there might just be woolly mammoth rides at your local zoo.

Woolly Mammoth Fact and Fiction - More info on the woolly mammoth for your reading pleasure

Cloning Books and Resources - More information for your cloning research

If you are interested in learning more about cloning, genetics and DNA analysis there are many fine books and laboratory manuals available.

This one is a good place to start one gene cloning and DNA analysis. Enjoy your research! And perhaps one day we'll be reading about your discoveries in the wonderful world of cloning research.

A Lens of the Day Selection

9/28/06

A Thank you to the fine people of Squidoo for choosing this lens as Lens of the Day on September 28th 2006 (Holy Moley has it been that long?) And to the many readers who have graced this lens with their curiosity - may you all be cloned and visit again, and again.

Reader Feedback

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    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Hallo, its always nice to know something new, God create human, and Gos ia allmighty super power, what is already perish by HIM, must consider again to live it back, but I agree human must try this for the positive purpose for human life and not for just fun or just crazy idea, think about life cycles, and if its danger for human, delete again this creature, oakya..relax...my friend,... but mostly I agree.

    • MelonyVaughan profile image

      MelonyVaughan 5 years ago

      What an interesting lens! Well done!

    • LewesDE profile image

      LewesDE 6 years ago

      I love this lens! please make more.

    • sousababy profile image

      sousababy 6 years ago

      Very belated congrats on LotD for this insightful lens. I am sure there is ample argument both for and against cloning. (I'm a little on the cautious side, not sure we know what we are getting ourselves into with cloning). Still, I suppose I need to look at more evidence and certainly there is life-saving potential to consider. Thank you for sharing, Rose

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Um um might there be any um dinosaurs on your dinosaur tour?

      Um uh life uh finds a way....

      uh um and now im uh sitting by myself uhhh talking to myself, that's chaos theory.

    • profile image

      Runnn 6 years ago

      Don't clone people, plz....

    • pinkrenegade lm profile image

      pinkrenegade lm 6 years ago

      If cloning would be successful, that would be great. :)

    • garyrh1 profile image

      garyrh1 6 years ago

      Great lens. Cloning definitely intrigues me.

    • WickedlyWired profile image

      WickedlyWired 7 years ago

      Wow. Great lens.

    • admiralglass lm profile image

      admiralglass lm 8 years ago

      Interesting lens. I wish they could bring back tasmanian tiger. I think they are so beautiful.

    • SusannaDuffy profile image

      Susanna Duffy 8 years ago from Melbourne Australia

      I love this lens! I had to come back for another look

    • AlishaV profile image

      Alisha Vargas 9 years ago from Reno, Nevada

      Great lens! I've been interested in cloning ever since I realized that we are losing species of animals and plants every single day and without cloning, those wonderful species would be gone forever.

    • SusannaDuffy profile image

      Susanna Duffy 9 years ago from Melbourne Australia

      Excellent lens! Informative and thought provoking on a sensitive topic. Five high stars of course and linked as featured lens, as well as lensrolled, to my thylacine (tasmanian-tiger)

    • profile image

      anonymous 9 years ago

      Great lens, but no on the cloning, 5 stars

    • M Schaut profile image

      Margaret Schaut 10 years ago from Detroit

      I'm featuring your page on Squidoo-It-All! Great page!

    • DogWhisperWoman1 profile image

      DogWhisperWoman1 10 years ago

      5* for effort. However, cloning is only a partial copy of another's great invention. It is not impressive and only creates false hope and other serious problems. Dog Whisper Woman

    • Gatsby LM profile image

      Gatsby LM 10 years ago

      5* For your persentation, but colning is a bad idea. Dog Whisper With Rena

    • surfsusan profile image

      surfsusan 10 years ago

      Fine lens.

    • profile image

      MrLewisSmile LM 11 years ago

      Great lens!

    • oniyagi profile image

      oniyagi 11 years ago

      Also brings up Clone Rights as well. I mean for cloned humans. What are your rights as a clone, pretty much a human robot. Do you have rights just because you are living and breathing or is your creator your master?

    • profile image

      Goddessshira 11 years ago

      One thing many people overlook is the fact that cloning will lead to females ruling the world. And I'm okay with that. On a more serious note, cloning may be the answer to world hunger, if we can figure out how to speed up the process. -Shira

    • profile image

      realslogans 11 years ago

      Very Cool.

      Thanks for all of the information. Keep us up to date.

    • profile image

      junglequeen 11 years ago

      Hi Rusty - awesome lens - maybe humanity owes this much to all the species that have become extinct because of us, that we could manage to bring them back: but of course we're more likely to concentrate on the "sensational" species that probably would be hard to handle in the present day!

    • profile image

      valizi 11 years ago

      I find out it really interesting

      good work

    working