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Giant comeback bid
A model of a mammoth

London, Dec. 20: The first serious possibility the woolly mammoth, or something like it, could walk on Earth again was raised yesterday by an international team of scientists.

A portion of the genetic code of the mammoth has been reconstructed and, to the surprise of scientists, the team that carried out the feat believes it will be possible to decode the entire genetic make-up.

The tusked beast stood 12-feet tall, weighed up to seven tonnes and had a shaggy dark brown coat that hung from its belly. Woolly mammoths, which have become symbols of the Ice Age, died out 10,000 years ago.

DNA was extracted from a well-preserved 27,000-year-old specimen found in the Siberian permafrost.

So far, about 30 million “letters” of the genetic code have been read, albeit in small pieces, representing around one per cent of the entire code.

The team says it could take as little as a year to finish the estimated 2.8 billion-letter code that provides the genetic wherewithal to create the animal. Scientists in Japan and Russia have announced plans to attempt to clone mammoths, and, despite scepticism, today’s work will renew interest in the idea.

Dr Stephan Schuster of Pennsylvania State University, part of the team that announced the new work in the journal Science, said it may also be possible to genetically alter an elephant to turn it into a mammoth.

The work is described by an international team of researchers, who sequenced a chunk of ancient DNA belonging to the mammoth and “fellow travellers” from its remains, including bacteria, fungi, viruses and plants that lived at the same time as the mammoth.

The team extracted nuclear DNA from the mammoth’s jawbone, concentrating it before it was amplified and sequenced.

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