Science To Bring Back An Extinct Ice Age Horse Species: It’s A Long Shot, But Scientists Are Trying Anyway


With the recent discovery of an extinct ice age horse that is so well preserved, it looks like it is sleeping rather than dead, people are now wondering if it is possible to clone the animal. However, for those in the scientific field, this sort of replication might still be too difficult to perform.

As previously reported by the Inquisitr, the remains of a now-extinct horse species were discovered in Siberia. The remains belonged to a baby horse that is estimated to have been alive in the Paleolithic era, some 40,000 years ago.

“This is the first find in the world of a prehistoric horse of such a young age and with such an amazing level of preservation,” Semyon Grigoryev, the head of the laboratory at the museum responsible for housing the remains, said after the find.

The horse was estimated to have been 2- to 3-months-old at its time of death and measures in at 34 inches long. The Siberian permafrost helped preserve the baby horse so well that its coat, hooves, and internal organs are all still intact and clearly identifiable, giving the appearance that the horse is resting, not having died thousands of years ago.

Of course, that has led to people wondering if it is possible to extract enough DNA from the animal and replicate the now-extinct horse.

So, is this possible?

According to Live Science, the ability to clone the horse is within the current realms of scientific knowledge, but it would be considered a long shot to be able to apply this knowledge in the real world.

Experts present at the Mammoth Museum, where the baby horse remains are currently housed, are “skeptical that the scientists will be able to find viable DNA on the body at all, let alone overcome the enormous challenges of cloning a species that’s been extinct for millennia,” according to Live Science.

Although, one of the scientists involved, Woo-Suk Hwang, did say that all they need to find is one live cell.

“If we find only one live cell, we can clone this ancient horse,” Hwang said. “We can multiply it and get as many embryos as we need.”

However, finding a living cell on the frozen remains of a 40,000-year-old extinct horse might be somewhat of a challenge. Although, it will likely be easier than cloning the extinct mammoth, which is one of the other current cloning attempts by members of the group also working on the ancient horse. The reasoning behind this is the fact that horses still exist today and “a modern horse could serve as the embryo’s surrogate.” In the case of trying to clone a mammoth, embryos would have to be put inside a living elephant. While elephants and mammoths are related, they are not considered closely related, so the result would be a “genetically engineered elephant-mammoth hybrid,” according to Hwang.

While a living cell may not be possible in the ancient horse remains, it is possible scientists could construct a genome sequence from any DNA that is extracted from the remains. However, the “chance of finding an undamaged nucleus with an intact genome, or even a frozen cell that could be recovered” is considered “astronomical” by Vincent Lynch, an assistant professor in the Department of Human Genetics at the University of Chicago.

“Scientists rarely say something is impossible, but it is certainly approaching it,” Lynch told Live Science.