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

by Beth Shapiro Princeton University Press
Pub Date:
Pbk 240 pages
AU$34.99 NZ$39.12
Product Status: Available in Approx 14 days
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Could extinct species, like mammoths and passenger pigeons, be brought back to life? The science says yes. In How to Clone a Mammoth, Beth Shapiro, evolutionary biologist and pioneer in "ancient DNA" research, walks readers through the astonishing and controversial process of de-extinction. From deciding which species should be restored, to sequencing their genomes, to anticipating how revived populations might be overseen in the wild, Shapiro vividly explores the extraordinary cutting-edge science that is being used--today--to resurrect the past. Journeying to far-flung Siberian locales in search of ice age bones and delving into her own research--as well as those of fellow experts such as Svante Pääbo, George Church, and Craig Venter--Shapiro considers de-extinction's practical benefits and ethical challenges. Would de-extinction change the way we live? Is this really cloning? What are the costs and risks? And what is the ultimate goal?


Using DNA collected from remains as a genetic blueprint, scientists aim to engineer extinct traits--traits that evolved by natural selection over thousands of years--into living organisms. But rather than viewing de-extinction as a way to restore one particular species, Shapiro argues that the overarching goal should be the revitalization and stabilization of contemporary ecosystems. For example, elephants with genes modified to express mammoth traits could expand into the Arctic, re-establishing lost productivity to the tundra ecosystem.


Looking at the very real and compelling science behind an idea once seen as science fiction, How to Clone a Mammoth demonstrates how de-extinction will redefine conservation's future.


"Beth Shapiro's 'how-to' manual couldn't be more timely."--New Scientist, a New Scientist best reads from 2015 selection


Beth Shapiro is doing 2 public talks in New Zealand in October 2016 (Dunedin and Auckland) that are being promoted on a national radio show.



Prologue ix

Chapter 1 Reversing Extinction 1

Chapter 2 Select a Species 17

Chapter 3 Find a Well-Preserved Specimen 51

Chapter 4 Create a Clone 73

Chapter 5 Breed Them Back 99

Chapter 6 Reconstruct the Genome 109

Chapter 7 Reconstruct Part of the Genome 125

Chapter 8 Now Create a Clone 141

Chapter 9 Make More of Them 159

Chapter 10 Set Them Free 175

Chapter 11 Should We? 189

Acknowledgments 209

Notes 211

Index 213




"Beth Shapiro's 'how-to' manual couldn't be more timely."--New Scientist, a New Scientist best reads from 2015 selection

Beth Shapiro is associate professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Her work has appeared in numerous publications, including Nature and Science, and she was a 2009 recipient of a MacArthur Award. She lives in Santa Cruz.