Review – How To Clone a Mammoth

Posted January 8, 2017 by Nicky in Reviews / 2 Comments

Cover of How To Clone a Mammoth by Beth ShapiroHow To Clone A Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction, Beth Shapiro

For a title which sounds like a how-to book, this book spends an awful amount of time pointing out the ways in which cloning a mammoth is not possible. A lot of science is stuff I was well aware of, but it’s presented engagingly and clearly, so it was still an enjoyable read. It’s not purely about mammoths, although they are one of the main species considered: after all, they’re thought to have played a significant part in the sustainability of the tundra they inhabited. A lot of the book concerns cases like that: cases where reintroducing an animal to an ecosystem might bring it back into balance.

Despite science fiction’s hopes, cloning an extinct animal is still pretty far off — but it does depend on the methods you use. Shapiro uses a fairly broad definition of cloning, discussing back breeding as well: the process by which a current species is selectively bred to restore features of an ancestral or related species.

There’s a lot of interesting stuff here, including an explanation of why you can’t clone birds in the same way as Dolly the sheep was cloned. Fascinating stuff, and well presented. And if it’s a bit of a killjoy to know that mammoths aren’t so easily cloned, I think the interest of the science and discussed ethical issues still makes it worth it.

Rating: 4/5

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2 responses to “Review – How To Clone a Mammoth

    • I don’t know, they’re actually saying that reintroducing mammoths to certain habitats would be a really good idea. It’d help maintain the landscape and recycle nutrients. I’m sure the same would apply to some dinosaurs!

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