Who Knew?

Woolly Mammoth Genome Sequenced

Next stop, Jurassic Park. Scientists at Penn State have sequenced the genome of the woolly mammoth using hair found on two specimens, one 20,000 and one 60,000 years old—the first time the genome of an extinct species has been sequenced. The team is studying the genome for clues about the mammoth’s extinction. They’ve discovered that mammoths had very low genetic diversity, meaning the species would be particularly susceptible to pandemic, climate change, and humans. They hope their discoveries can help other species threatened with extinction, like the Tasmanian Devil, which is currently being made extinct by a facial cancer. So could a mammoth be resurrected, as Michael Crichton predicted? “A lot of what would be needed is already on hand,” said Stephan Schuster, professor of microbial ecology at Penn State. “There’s only this gap in the knowledge of the mammoth genome that’s missing.”