That such a noted scientist could even discuss the process of bringing back the mammoth stems from an astonishing find on a remote Russian island in the Arctic Ocean: blood so well preserved that it flowed freely from a 10,000- to 15,000-year-old creature.
"The fragments of muscle tissues, which we've found out of the body, have a natural red color of fresh meat. The reason for such preservation is that the lower part of the body was underlying in pure ice, and the upper part was found in the middle of tundra," said Semyon Grigoriev, the head of the expedition and chairman of the Mammoth Museum, after announcing the discovery.
Wooly mammoths are thought to have died out around 10,000 years ago, although scientists think small groups of them lived longer in Alaska and on Russia's Wrangel Island off the Siberian coast.
A growing chorus of scientists have been targeting the mammoth for so called "de-extinction" in recent years, at the same time that others argue against tampering with Mother Nature's plans. Bringing back a dead species raises a host of issues, wrote two ethicists recently.
"The critical ethical issue in re-creating extinct species, or in creating new kinds of animals, is to first determine through careful scientific study what is in their interests and to ensure that they live good lives in the world in which they are create," wrote Julian Savulescu, who studies ethics at Monash University, and Russell Powell, a philosophy professor at Boston University.
"If we are confident that a cognitively sophisticated organism, such as a mammoth, would lead a good life, this may provide moral reasons to create it - whether or not that animal is a clone of a member of an extinct lineage."
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