Monday, January 12, 2015

How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of de-Extinction

How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of de-ExtinctionHow to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of de-Extinction by Beth Shapiro
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of de-Extinction is a book detailing the trials and tribulations involved in bringing an extinct species back to life.

I got this from Netgalley.

Okay, here's the deal. I found this book very interesting but also very repetitive. After the fourth or fifth description of a possible cloning method, only to have it explained yet again why it wouldn't work for a mammoth, I was ready to commission Bill Bryson to write a cloning book for me.

There were a lot of interesting concepts, like back-breeding, that I'd never heard of. Apparently scientists in Europe have been back-breeding cows to produce something very much like an aurochs for decades. Could the same process be used to create something mammoth-ish from Asian elephants?

The book painstakingly chronicles the trials and tribulations of retrieving intact-ish DNA from frozen mammoth carcasses. Apparently dogs will gnaw bits off of a mammoth carcass once you get it out of the ground.

While de-extincting mammoths was the title feature, other species were covered, like the passenger pigeon, the dodo, and the woolly rhinoceros. I found it really interesting that mammoths survived well into human history and scientists still aren't sure why they went extinct in the first place. There was also some speculation that re-introducing mammoths or mammoth-infused Asian elephants to Siberia could turn the tundra into a grassland in just a few seasons. Interesting things to ponder.

The bottom line is the book covered some interesting topics but could have been more interestingly written. Three out of five stars.

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