Meet the new mammoth, same as the old? Resurrecting the Mammuthus primigenius
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Media reporters often announce that we are on the verge of bringing back the woolly mammoth, even while there is growing consensus among scientists that resurrecting the mammoth is unlikely. In fact, current “de-extinction” efforts are not designed to bring back a mammoth, but rather adaptations of the mammoth using close relatives. For example, Harvard scientists are working on creating an Asian elephant with the thick coat of a mammoth by merging mammoth and elephant DNA. But how should such creatures be classified? Are they elephants, mammoths, or both? Answering these questions requires getting clear about the concept of reproduction. What I hope to show is that with an appropriate notion of reproduction—one for which I will argue—resurrecting a member of Mammuthus primigenius is a genuine possibility.
KeywordsDe-extinction Reproduction Spatiotemporal continuity Species
Thanks to Gunner Babcock, Marc Ereshefsky, anonymous reviewers, the editor of this journal, and most of all to Matt Mosdell, for helpful discussion and feedback on earlier drafts.
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