January 05, 2009
Chad Love: Cloning Neanderthals
By Dave Hurteau & Chad Love
The reasons we hunt are many and varied, but a big one for me is the feeling that every time I slip into the woods I am connecting with something buried deep within my genome, something that allows me to see and feel - ever so faintly - the ghostly after-image of an ancient memory seared so powerfully into the consciousness of our ancestors that it survives still, reaching across untold millennia to remind those of us who care to listen of whence we came.
But as it turns out, from whence we came may not be so far as we thought from whence we are...
From the story:
Last week in Nature, scientists reported major progress in sequencing the genome of woolly mammoths. They reconstructed it from two fossilized hair samples. One was 20,000 years old; the other was 65,000 years old. Now, according to Nicholas Wade of the New York Times, biologists are discussing "how to modify the DNA in an elephant's egg so that after each round of changes it would progressively resemble the DNA in a mammoth egg. The final-stage egg could then be brought to term in an elephant mother.
That's certainly interesting, but here's where it gets a little personal for us bipedal hominids...
The full genome of the Neanderthal, an ancient human species probably driven to extinction by the first modern humans that entered Europe some 45,000 years ago, is expected to be recovered shortly. If the mammoth can be resurrected, the same would be technically possible for Neanderthals.
Now I'm fully aware of the whole Neanderthal debate and whether they shared a common ancestor or were completely separate from modern humans and if they were too primitive and well, stupid to evolve in the face of human competition. There's a growing body of evidence to suggest that Neanderthals were in fact highly evolved and adaptable hunters but who knows and really, who cares? Anyone who can bring down a mammoth with a spear is pretty damn advanced in my book and I consider them an ancestor in spirit if not DNA.
Even if cloning a Neanderthal becomes technically possible, I'm sure there are too many thorny bioethical questions for it to occur. However, I have a few suggestions just in case: First, our newly-minted Neanderthal needs to find these guys and whip their asses good. They're giving primitives a bad name. Second, our Neanderthal needs to attend the SHOT show as a living reminder that to be successful as a hunter doesn't require an endless barrage of mostly-useless crap. Third, the F&S Total Outdoorsman Challenge. Who's gonna beat him? You?
And lastly, he needs to hold the short-sighted scientists who created him in his extra-powerful grasp until they either agree to clone a lady Neanderthal or convince Raquel Welch to break out the fur bikini.