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Why the cloned woolly mammoth is not just around the corner

File:Woolly mammoth.jpg
model from Royal BC Museum /FunkMonk, CCL

From Laura Geggel at LiveScience:

The road to bringing back the mammoth — a giant that went extinct at the end of the last ice age — is filled with barriers.More.

Of the eleven hurdles Geggel cites, here’s

Even if pieces of preserved ancient DNA are uncovered, they might be contaminated with foreign DNA from fungus, bacteria, plants, animals and even from humans handling it for research purposes.

This DNA contamination can make it difficult for researchers to know which DNA molecule belongs to the animal, and which is from contamination, especially if the extinct animal doesn’t have a living relative whose DNA can serve as a roadmap, Shapiro wrote.

John Hawk noted back in February that the breathless predictions of imminent herds of woolly mammoths trampling around the local sanctuary are fake news:

Media outlets this week have run more than 60 stories about Church’s press announcement, with breathless headlines, like “Woolly mammoths ‘to walk the earth again in TWO YEARS’ after massive breakthrough”, or “Woolly Mammoth Could Be ‘De-Extinct’ In 2 Years, Scientist Says”.

Five reasons convince me that this week’s mammoth cloning story is beyond sensationalism, it is fake news. Looking at how this story went wrong says some depressing things about the state of today’s media coverage of science.

For one thing:

Results ALWAYS seem to be two years away More.

Hmm. Just enough time for people to have been distracted from an ongoing failure by some other pop science geewhiz.

By the way, this story could be filed under Tales of the Tone Deaf.

Science media run this schlock and, in apparent innocence, wonder why the public doesn’t trust or believe the “consensus” of science.

How about, we hear pop science nonsense claims of “consensus” every week, and we find that ignoring most of them is a sound decision-making strategy. Maybe wrong sometimes, but not usually.

See also: Beyond de-extinction: Frankengenetics?

Lazarus species: animals listed as extinct that turned up again.

Tales of the tone deaf: Doubt of science authorities as social deviance


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