Mammoth-elephant hybrids could be created within the decade. Should they be?


Harvard geneticist George Church has co-founded a new company with an audacious goal: engineer an elephant that resembles the extinct woolly mammoth. The company, named Colossal, aims to use woolly mammoth DNA to make a hybridized Asian elephant that could thrive in Arctic climates.

Using these hybrids, Colossal’s long-term goal is to convert swaths of today’s mossy tundra into the grassy steppes they once were during the Pleistocene epoch, the period of multiple ice ages that ended 11,700 years ago. Some scientists hypothesize that at large scales, this reversal could reduce future climate change by slowing the thaw of Arctic permafrost. Along the way, Colossal hopes to create new—and lucrative—biotechnologies, including tools that would supplement traditional conservation approaches.

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