Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Woolly Mammoth: Close to African Elephant or Not?

The remains of a 28,000-year-old woolly mammoth fueled debate over the 21st-century science of genomics on Monday, as two teams offered evidence about the big mammal's genetic makeup.

Competing papers in the journals Science and Nature both focused on what is left of a woolly mammoth found in Siberia.

This mammoth was a good candidate for genetic analysis because it had been preserved in the natural deep-freeze of permafrost soil, which meant less of it was decomposed or contaminated by bacteria and other organisms.

The Nature team studied the mammoth's mitochondrial DNA -- genetic material located outside the nucleus of a cell, which is passed only from the mother -- while the Science team's study included DNA from the mammoth's cell nucleii, which contain the chromosomes that carry the bulk of the genetic blueprint for the animal.

Researchers from the Max Planck Institute in Leipzig, Germany, reported in Nature that the woolly mammoth was more closely related to the Asian than the African elephant, but that the divergence between the three occurred over a short time.

In Science, researchers from McMaster University in Canada and Penn State University in the United States said their work showed the mammoth's nuclear DNA was 98.5 percent identical to nuclear DNA from an African elephant.

Read more here.

Are the Japanese still trying to clone one? hrm. It appears that they haven't given up yet.

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