A beagle gave birth to the world’s first arctic wolf clone

in the Jurassic Park, scientists are attempting to harness the incredible power of DNA to revive long-extinct species from Earth’s Mesozoic Era. They succeed and that success is their downfall. They had the right idea, the science works, but the execution was wrong. Fingers crossed we don’t make the same mistakes.

Ever since Dolly the Cloned Sheep burst onto the world stage, we have been fascinated by the future potential and ethical pitfalls of cloning. Revival of dinosaurs is clearly a bad idea, bad as we want to see it. They probably wouldn’t have a particularly good time on a planet that’s changed massively since they were last here, and there’s the whole problem of eating viewers. However, cloning could also have some potential in other use cases, most notably conservation. Instead of bringing back already extinct animals, scientists could use cloning to prevent extinctions altogether. At least that’s the goal.

Sinogene Biotechnology, a China-based genetic engineering company, mainly clones dead pets. At the time of writing this article, they currently offer the option of cloning your dog, cat or horse. You simply use their in-house cell preservation service to preserve your pet’s genetic material, and in the event of their inevitable demise, Sinogene will bring it back to you in the form of a genetically identical copy.

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Now, however, Sinogene has decided to clone more exotic animals, not for the pet trade but for conservation, according to a report by Global Times. They have announced the successful cloning of an arctic wolf named Maya, the first in the world. Their goal is to develop robust cloning technologies and infrastructure that could prove useful in the conservation of endangered species. Although the arctic wolf itself is not endangered, according to the World Wildlife Fund, successful cloning serves as a proof of concept, a stepping stone to other species.

Maya was born in June 2022 but has only just been announced to the world. So far she is fine and healthy. She spends her days with her mother, who happens to be a beagle. A dog was chosen as a surrogate due to its genetic similarity and common ancestry with wild wolves.

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The genetic material for Maya was taken from the cells of a wild wolf, also named Maya, who died of old age. This genetic material was then implanted into a dog’s egg. In fact, a total of 137 embryos were created. Of these, 85 were implanted in the uterus of beagles. Maya was the only success; Cloning is a dirty business.

Once Maya has grown a bit, she will be shown to the public and spend the rest of her days in Harbin Polarland, a polar park in China. It seems like an incongruous ending for such a wondrous creature, but it’s unlikely that Maya would do well in the wild, given the unusual circumstances of her birth and early life.

Even if she doesn’t have the life that nature intended her, perhaps she can become a symbol for nature conservation and prevent the further decline of endangered species. If not, Sinogene plans to be there. The company recently announced a collaboration with Beijing Wildlife Park to develop a method of genetically preserving rare and endangered animals so that they can be cloned in the future if needed.

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If Maya is any indication, the future of conservation could be as much in the lab as it is in the field. Cloning could allow us to manage the genetic diversity of populations and restore endangered species. We may even be able to bring back some recently extinct animals like the Tasmanian tiger from the abyss. Obviously, our primary efforts should be directed toward preventing losses, not reversing them, but Maya offers hope for lost or disappearing species. She is also cute as a button.

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