How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-extinction
by Beth Shapiro
Princeton University Press, 2015 (($24.95))
It has been several millennia since the last mammoths died out, after more than 100,000 years of dominating Arctic ecosystems. But the hairy elephants could return within decades, brought back to life by recent breakthroughs in biotechnology. In this lucid road map for the nascent discipline of “de-extinction,” Shapiro, an evolutionary biologist, examines not only how we can resurrect long-vanished species but also when we cannot or should not. Cloning a mammoth from frozen remains, for example, is unlikely to succeed, she writes, because it requires living cells; efforts to introduce mammoth genes into existing elephant species are more plausible. Most poignantly, Shapiro argues that without revitalizing ecosystems in which a resurrected species might flourish, in many cases de-extinction could be too cruel to countenance.