On July 5, 1996, in Edinburgh, Scotland, a scientific miracle happened. A sheep was born not from a mother but from cloned DNA. Her name was Dolly, and her birth marked a turning point in cloning science.

Turning point may be putting it lightly. Her presence caused an explosion in the world. Fear of scientific abuse and religious blasphemy collided with awe and possibility - what could cloning do for society? What couldn't it do? What should science do with cloning?

These questions are all the more relevant today. Stephen Spielberg hit the quandary right on the money in his Jurassic Park franchise when Ian Malcolm (played by Jeff Goldblum) criticizes the rebirth of dinosaurs, saying, "Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether they could, they didn't stop to think if they should."

That line resonates today, as news broke that a biotech firm called Colossal Biosciences has announced its intentions to bring the Woolly Mammoth back to life and reintroduce it to its pre-historic homeland in what is now Yellowstone National Park.

Can you already hear the Jurassic Park theme playing? It's hard not to picture how introducing a giant creature standing over eight feet tall and weighing 8,000 and 13,000 pounds to an ecosystem whose largest predator is a grizzly bear can go wrong. Ethically, one has to wonder if bringing mammoths into a world no longer built for their presence is fair to the animals or the world itself. Can mammoths even survive in Yellowstone these days? Is there enough plant life for them? Is it cold enough? According to environmental journalist Marcus Rivero, today's Yellowstone may not have the pieces needed to support mammoth life.

"The mammoth steppe, a biome that once spanned the Northern Hemisphere, provided an ideal habitat for mammoths, with cold, dry climates and extensive grasslands," explained Rivero in an article on Gaiaglint.com. However, Colossal Biosciences calls the move a "new wave of thoughtful and disruptive conservation aimed at combating the effects of climate change through ecosystem restoration."

Stem Cells & Cloning: The Answer to Endangered Species Preservation?

Back in 2021, Colossal Biosciences released a press release noting its intent to preserve endangered species using its technology, saying,  "In addition to bringing back ancient extinct species like the woolly mammoth, we will be able to leverage our technologies to help preserve critically endangered species that are on the verge of extinction and restore animals where humankind had a hand in their demise."

How the Mammoth Will Return to Yellowstone National Park

According to Colossal, stem cells can 'theoretically' already "spawn an elephant with traits reminiscent of its ancient, now-extinct relative." By 2028, the company expects to be able to produce a full-blown mammoth. The company calls the idea of reintroducing the mammoth to the world as "rewilding" of ecosystems.

But Should Mammoths Return At All?

Whether or not the mammoth should be recreated remains a pressing question. And for that matter, would science stop at mammoths? What about Dire Wolves, the Dodo, or - heaven help us - dinosaurs? Is the woolly mammoth the atomic bomb of genetics - an irrevocable step on the path of progress that could spell the demise of today's ecosystems? Or, is this the new frontier, as the moon landing was, in which Star Trek-like tech comes about? I suppose we'll have to wait and see.

Meet the Dinosaurs That Roamed Ancient Wyoming

Discover the mighty dinosaurs that roamed the Cowboy State, featuring information shared by the Geological Museum at the University of Wyoming. Learn about the types of dinosaurs that lived in pre-historic Wyoming, fun facts about them, and more.

Gallery Credit: Phylicia Peterson, Townsquare Media Laramie/Cheyenne