06 March 2012

Another clone attack

Animal fossils will be examined, not cloned

RIA NewsThe fossil remains of a mammoth, bison and horse discovered in Yakutia last spring can provide data for genetic research, as well as new data on the ancient flora of the Ice Age, Yevgeny Mashchenko, senior researcher at the Paleontological Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences, told RIA Novosti.

Some media have already reported that scientists intend to send tissue samples of ancient animals discovered in Yakutia to leading institutes of the world for possible cloning.

Yellow as a canary, the tabloid "The Sun" either did not wait for the first of April, or really from a big mind even published an article with a year-old video of a live mammoth. True, the finds that the Russian media wrote about are not mentioned there, but the coincidence in time is simply amazing – VM.

More than a year ago, on the shore of the Laptev Sea and at the mouth of the Indigirka River, the remains of a mammoth, an ancient horse and a bison that lived on this territory more than 9 thousand years ago were discovered. The "age" of the ancient horse, according to scientists, can be as 3-4 thousand years, and 10-20 thousand years – subsequent studies should clarify the issue of dating.

Mashchenko does not consider the work on cloning prehistoric animals found in Yakutia as a prospect for the near future, however, he notes that any research in this direction is very important and must necessarily be carried out.

"First of all, work will be carried out not related to cloning, but work related to the study of the genotype. It is important, for example, to compare the horse found with a modern Yakut horse (a shaggy, squat horse with a big head and strong legs)," explained Mashchenko.

According to the paleontologist, the study of the fossil "relative" will clarify the controversial issue of the origin of the Yakut horse. Some scientists believe that this breed of ungulates comes from horses that were brought from Central Asia, and from native animals that lived in Yakutia. Other experts believe that the Yakut horse is not the heir of wild horses.

It's too early to clone"As for cloning.

I want to clarify that such cloning cannot be performed in the near future due to certain technical difficulties. It is required to extract information on the nuclear DNA (from chromosomes inside the cell nucleus) of a mammoth, which has not been done yet. I'm not saying that these works do not need to be carried out, but these are works for the long term," Mashchenko explained.

According to the scientist, the mammoth found can be considered the only fossil remains belonging to a "teenager" of this animal species.

"Usually it was possible to find either mammoth babies or very old ones. And this mammoth is from four to six years old," explained Mashchenko.

He added that if the storage conditions of this find allow, then of all the finds, only from the remains of a mammoth, perhaps, an effigy will be made.

"Skeletons from a horse and an ancient bison, of course, will not be removed. The fact is that for such finds it is very important that their state of preservation does not change. Perhaps, for the mammoth Yucca, you can still think about making a stuffed animal, but these are just my assumptions," the agency interlocutor said.

The "Refrigerator" in bisonAccording to scientists, the additional value of the remains of a bison is the contents of its stomach and the structural features of its internal organs.

"This is only the second bison find in the world in such a degree of preservation. During the study, a limited autopsy of the stomach of this animal was carried out to take samples of plant remains and, perhaps, seeds. By these twigs and the remains of leaves and stems, it is possible to identify plant species that lived many thousands of years ago," Mashchenko said.

As the scientist noted, it is possible that the remains of a bison and a horse will be studied using high-precision scanners that will allow to examine the internal structure of organs and tissues of animals, the features of the structure of their skeletons. However, Russian scientists do not have equipment where such large finds can be placed entirely, and there are only 4-5 such scanners abroad.

"There are several companies in the world that have such large scanners. They are, in my opinion, in Europe and in America. The Academy of Sciences of the Republic of Yakutia will organize these instrument studies," Mashchenko said.

In addition to scientific organizations, the work on the study of fossils is supported by the Russian Geographical Society.

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