Josh Gates heads north on Expedition Unknown as he searches for woolly mammoth DNA

Woolly Mammoth
A woolly mammoth model at the Royal BC Museum

This week on Expedition Unknown, Josh and the team are bound for the far north as they head into the Arctic Circle in search for woolly mammoth DNA.

The woolly mammoths went extinct about 4000 years ago, when the last isolated population on Wrangel island died out. Though mammoths disappeared from the mainland around 10,000 years ago, probably due to a combination of climate change and human hunting.

Mammoths were about the same size as modern day African elephants, with males about 3 m at the shoulder and weighing in around six metric tons. They had thick fur made up of two layers, with short ears and tail to avoid frostbite in the cold. They mostly ate grass and sedges and could live up to 60 years, with their range being the steppes in Europe, Asia and North America.

Given the well preserved remains that have been found in glaciers and permafrost, scientists have often wondered if they could be recreated. If enough DNA could be extracted from remains to then use a modern elephant to carry a mammoth baby.

However, to this date nobody has managed it and although Swedish scientists did sequence the entire mammoth genome in 2015, no viable hybrid embryo has has been created.

Josh goes in search of some DNA at a mining camp in Siberia, where local are digging up mammoth ivory.

Expedition Unknown airs on Wednesdays at 9:00 PM on Travel Channel.

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