The Bugs They Need

Petri

Emma Marris eyes one technical hurdle to cloning extinct animals not addressed in Jurassic Park:

Mammals like mammoths and humans host thriving, complex communities of microbes on their skins, in their mouths and, especially, in their guts. This "gut flora", when behaving normally, doesn’t hurt us but helps us break down our food and train our immune systems. … When the mammoth went extinct, so, presumably, did all its little bugs. A cloned mammoth born vaginally from an elephant would likely end up with elephant microflora. One delivered by caesarean might have no bugs at all. What do we make of a mammoth superoganism if only one out 100 of its genes are authentic to the ecosystem that roamed the earth inside a hairy proboscidean skin 13,000 years ago?

(Image by Jake Lewis)