Scientists have found mammoth blood, and are planning to clone a mammoth.

How does one go from having its blood to a full blown living mammoth? Is it possible?

Why does it matter if the blood is frozen or not? Suppose one found dinosaur blood, could one clone a dinsosaur (as in say 'Jurassic Park')?

  • $\begingroup$ and I think the DNA will be too heavily degraded by now too get a copy of the full genome of one $\endgroup$
    – ratchet freak
    May 29, 2013 at 19:21
  • $\begingroup$ Given that nobody has ever been able a clone, say, a frozen chicken out of a household freezer, I'm highly skeptical cloning mammoth is possible today. $\endgroup$
    – haimg
    May 29, 2013 at 19:36
  • $\begingroup$ My guess is that they might synthesize DNA, by sequencing fragments found in the blood. Once they have the DNA, perhaps implant it in an elephant egg? $\endgroup$
    – ChrisW
    May 29, 2013 at 21:58

3 Answers 3


DNA degradation half-lifetime within fossilized/frozen species is ~ 500 years., even when the conditions are perfect for preservation.

Thus, in theory, if we could sequence anything that is less then 13 000 years old (expected length of preserved nucleotide sequences ~30 bp, which is just enough to stitch together two unique regions). If we have several copies of DNA (several cells), we can go a little bit further by sequencing same reads several times. If we assume an average cell is 30 um in diameter, we have ~40 000 cells in a cubic mm of tissue samle. this will allow us to extend the sequencing horizon by another 8000 years. With a cubic sample of intact, perfectly preserved tissue (this is REALLY A LOT and REALLY RARE) we could get an additional 5000 years, limiting our possibility to know the genome, let alone reproduce it to 26-30 000 years.

By using a couple of sequence assembly tricks, such as existence of reference genomes of closely related species, we could either decrease the amount of tissue sames or allow the DNA to get a little bit more degraded. However, even with a cubic centimeter of tissue we won't be able to go beyond 50-100 000 years.

The furthest we have gotten now is a Neanderthal sequence (~30 000 years) and it was already tough. It would be impossible to get a hand on dinasaurus DNA sequence, let alone trying to clone it. Mammoth, Saber-tooth Tiger and Dodo should be ok, provided we can find their remainders.

Now, Once you get the raw DNA sequence, you have to get the epigenetic code right, find a compatible egg of a related spicies (that is quite hard), inject your DNA into it, and hopefully, with lots of ifs you can get your clone and hope it survives. However the part about getting the epigenetic code right and finding a compatible egg is really not easy. Personally, I won't parry on anything that doesn't have close related species still living.

UPDATE: as of June 2013 a genome of a wild horse 700 000 years old have been sequenced, which is the furthers we could get so far.


I'll just add that projects to clone a mammoth have been active for over a decade and privately funded projects are also underway. While the precedent has not been set by actually doing this, the technology of reproductive cloning of animals is still very new and each new case is its own problems to solve but there's reason to believe that the technical difficulties can be overcome as new animals are constantly being added to the list..

For instance lots of hybrid experiments are underway where a modern animal's genome is used as a scaffold in which extinct animals genes are inserted, just as was suggested in Jurassic Park. Its not clear how far this can go, but there's reason to be quite optimistic.

By the way, Ed Yong's blog post is a great place to start for a discussion of the details of inseminating an elephant successfully.

  • $\begingroup$ @GriffinEvo You shouldn’t add content like this to other answers – instead, post your own answer. $\endgroup$ Jul 3, 2013 at 10:19
  • $\begingroup$ @KonradRudolph Apologies, here is my additional point but I am not going to write a whole answer because this isn't a complete answer: This TED talk (ted.com/talks/…), from June 2013, is about such projects which are trying to rescue two recently extinct species and they seem to be making some progress. $\endgroup$
    – rg255
    Jul 3, 2013 at 10:48

How does one go from having its blood to a full blown living mammoth? Is it possible?

It is possible, but it is really hard with the current technology. The DNA in the frozen mammoth blood is heavily degraded, but with enough degraded DNA samples you can create a DNA sequence. After that you can compare it with elephant DNA, and you can genetically alter an elephant zygote. You can synthesize the whole genome too, but it's much harder.

Why does it matter if the blood is frozen or not?

The DNA degrades slower when the blood is frozen.

Suppose one found dinosaur blood, could one clone a dinsosaur (as in say 'Jurrasic Park')?

You will never find dinosaur blood, fossils are just rock, nothing more.

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    $\begingroup$ Welcome to Skeptics Stack Exchange! We require references for all significant claims here. Please edit your answer to include appropriate references. $\endgroup$ May 30, 2013 at 8:24
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    $\begingroup$ The premise of Jurassic Park was that mosquitoes, with a meal of dinosaur blood, had been trapped and preserved in amber. This is distinct from fossilization - an answer needs to address this. $\endgroup$ May 30, 2013 at 8:32
  • $\begingroup$ Ye, but you cannot preserve DNA for millions of years... $\endgroup$
    – inf3rno
    May 30, 2013 at 8:49
  • $\begingroup$ @Fabian Ok, I'll cite articles later, now I have to go... $\endgroup$
    – inf3rno
    May 30, 2013 at 8:51
  • $\begingroup$ “you cannot preserve DNA for millions of years” – any evidence for that? I know for a fact that plenty of respectable biologists think the opposite. $\endgroup$ May 31, 2013 at 10:33

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