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.
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Preface to the 2020 edition 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
Beth Shapiro is associate professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Shapiro's work has appeared in numerous publications, including Nature and Science, and she is a 2009 recipient of a MacArthur Award. She lives in Santa Cruz, California.
"A fascinating book."
– Carl Zimmer, Wall Street Journal
"At once an account of the state of the technology, a sketch of how to proceed, a barrage of as-yet unanswerable questions and a manifesto."
– Olivia Judson, Financial Times
"A thrilling tour of the science that might – might – recreate lost worlds from the not-too-distant past [...] Sharp, witty, and impeccably-argued."
– Brian Switek, National Geographic.com
"An entertaining and deeply informative read."
– A. Rus Hoelzel, Science
"[...] When Beth Shapiro started writing How to Clone a Mammoth a few years ago, she could have had little idea how timely her "how-to" manual would be [...] "De-extinction", the preserve of proleptic fiction like Jurassic Park, and coined from that genre, is becoming real. Shapiro, a biologist who researches the mammoth and the passenger pigeon, gives us a clear and fascinating update [...] Shapiro handles the debates well, although I'd have liked more about the "benefits" of de-extinction [...] Public appetite for mammoths – and de-extinction – is clearly immense, and Shapiro has received both fan and hate mail. Her book can only prove a great aid to informed debate."
– Shaoni Bhattacharya, New Scientist (3022), 25-05-2015
"[Shapiro] goes to great lengths to demystify the art and science of cloning."
– Kirkus Reviews
"Some of the best conversations I've had in recent months have come about while discussing de-extinction. The concept is simple: should we clone extinct animals, Jurassic Park-style, from found genetic material? How do we do it? What would the impact be on the environment? Shapiro makes it clear that we should have this discussion now because the future of de-extinction is real and coming fast."
– Andrew Sturgeon, Flavorwire, from "10 Must-Read Academic Books of 2015"
"[A] fascinating book [...] A great popular science title, and one that makes it clear that a future you may have imagined is already underway."
– Library Journal, starred review
"Bringing a lost species back to life is an exciting prospect and also a scary one. No one is better able to explain the challenges and the potential of the enterprise than Beth Shapiro. How to Clone a Mammoth is an engaging, rigorous, and deeply thoughtful book."
– Elizabeth Kolbert, author of The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History
"How to Clone a Mammoth is essential reading. Describing the cutting-edge science, and tackling the misleading ideas, surrounding de-extinction, this book immerses us in current discussions as well as the debates that are sure to come."
– Joel L. Cracraft, American Museum of Natural History
"How to Clone a Mammoth takes a careful and entertaining look at the possibilities and consequences of bringing such animals as the mammoth and passenger pigeon back from extinction. Well-written and informative, the book explores the science and people involved in these investigations and the difficulties and false leads that have been encountered."
– Peter H. Raven, president emeritus, Missouri Botanical Garden
"From basic science to ethics, How to Clone a Mammoth is a thorough and captivating exploration of an area at the leading edge of conservation biology. This book educates readers and entices all of us to delve more deeply into the issues discussed."
– Simon Levin, author of Fragile Dominion