Editorial: Want to see a woolly?

Our View


Woolly mammoths have been extinct for thousands of years, but Penn State professors now have DNA needed to recreate one.


Politics dominate side conversations in classes, but science deserves similar power and this finding should be discussed in classes.

Even though there was a deeper meaning behind the Jurassic Park movies, we were all blown away by the action packed story lines and visual effects. Now, that we’re engaged in highly intense college courses and looking at the world critically, that deeper meaning to Jurassic Park should return instantaneously when you discover what’s happened at Pennsylvania State University.

Using state-of-the-art instruments and groundbreaking DNA-reading methods, Penn State scientists have uncovered much of the genetic code of the woolly mammoth, a prehistoric species of the elephant. The information has and could help discover more about the extinction process during that time period, and recreating the animal is also a future step in this process.

“By deciphering this genome, we could, in theory, generate data that one day may help other researchers to bring the woolly mammoth back to life by inserting the uniquely mammoth DNA sequences into the genome of the modern-day elephant,” said Stephan Schuster, a Penn State biochemistry professor and co-author of the research, in a press release.

As future decision makers and citizens of this planet, discussing this revelation is vital to our educations. Granted, recreating a woolly mammoth, or even a dinosaur, is a distant possibility, but decisions of today could shorten, lengthen or eliminate that process.

“It could be done. The question is, just because we might be able to do it one day, should we do it?” Schuster asked. “I would be surprised to see if it would take more than 10 or 20 years to do it.”

The scientists said exploring that option would come after their $1 million grant is used up for DNA research. But remember, Penn State is a form of government and this research could spark countless debates about government rights to play god or the government’s obligation to advance pre-historical records.

Other topics that arise include evolutionary research. These scientists said they’ve discovered that two different types of woolly mammoths existed in the same habitat, but did not breed with one another and became extinct about 35 million years apart. However, the scientists estimate that the more modern of the two mammoths differs from an African elephant by only 0.6 percent of its DNA. That is about half the 1.24 percent difference between human beings and chimpanzees, our closest relatives.

As this information broke Wednesday, students should take the time and effort to bring the subject up in classes. Politics have dominated side conversation in classes or personal conversations, but science also needs to hold that social power.

The moral and financial discussions are what we want you to have because we simply think this topic is worthy of scholarly commitment.