26

I was just watching a documentary about dinosaurs and this question came to my mind. In Jurassic Park, the whole story is based on the premise that dinosaurs were recreated using the blood found in an amber. Later scientists create the dino DNA and hence create dinosaurs. How realistic or scientifically possible is the story? I mean of course no one has ever found dinosaurs' blood, but let's say even if it was trapped inside a mosquito inside amber, could that ball of amber, still survive millions of years later? Of course they said in the movie that DNA was not complete, but then it comes to the mind that would it have anything at all?

Broadly I have two questions

  1. How much scientifically possible is the discovery of dinosaur blood, today ?
  2. How much scientifically possible is it to recreate dinosaurs even if their blood sample is found?

What I mean is, if by chance, such a thing really happened (the story of mosquito biting dino and getting locked in amber) is it possible to create dinosaurs?

  • 2
    news.discovery.com/earth/rocks-fossils/… – user7812 Nov 5 '14 at 17:34
  • 1
    telegraph.co.uk/science/dinosaurs/10303795/… – user7812 Nov 5 '14 at 17:35
  • Then you have this story. – System Down Nov 5 '14 at 17:55
  • I went to a screening of Jurassic Park that was preceded by a presentation by one of Yale University's Biology professors. He explained why it wasn't scientifically possible, but it went over my head. – Johnny Bones Nov 5 '14 at 18:39
  • 4
    I (biology undergraduate at that time) remember cracking up in the cinema when they said "we filled up the holes in the DNA with frog's DNA" later on in the movie. Yeah, right, that will work... </sarcasm> – DevSolar Nov 6 '14 at 10:00
22

In a word, No.

According to this Natural History Museum fact file, Professor Jeremy Austin describes the possibility of recovering a sufficient quantity of usable DNA to recreate a dinosaur as being essentially zero.

NHM: Do you think it likely that scientists will ever be able to extract enough DNA from fossilized remains to reconstruct the complete DNA sequence for a dinosaur?

Austin: I think it would be an impossible task. Even if we could successfully isolate fragments of dinosaur DNA, mapping the correct DNA sequence for a complete dinosaur genome would be like trying to predict the contents, and order, of a complete library of information, from the facts contained in just one or two pages of a single book. To give you an idea of the complexity of the problem I have been analyzing DNA from specimens of lizards that became extinct about 300 years ago. The largest single piece of DNA sequence that I have been able to obtain so far, after 6 months of effort, is 50 base pairs. These minuscule snippets of information tell me that I am looking at a lizard from a particular group but it is a quantum leap away from enabling me to predict the thousands or millions of base pair sequences for a single feature of the animal--let alone its complete genome

That being said, there have been recent efforts to discover whether complex molecules can survive deep time. The answer is a qualified yes but it's notable that this discovery doesn't mean that DNA is any sort of recoverable condition, merely that the DNA itself has molecules that can survive millions of years.

  • 3
    For the record, chicken DNA contains around one billion base pairs. He's managed to get 50 which represents 0.00000005% completion. – user7812 Nov 5 '14 at 17:45
  • 4
    The fact that he has had some success (however small) with extinct lizards suggests, at least to me, that success with dinosaurs could be possible in the future. He's already taken the first steps. Who's to say future technology won't allow someone to go all the way? – Shiz Z. Nov 5 '14 at 18:47
  • 1
    @ShizZ. because in the absence of long, continuous, overlapping stretches of DNA it is impossible to reconstruct the whole thing. A better book analogy might be if I gave you 2- or 3-word sequences from a book, if you could successfully reconstruct the entire thing. Successfully getting all sequences ("full coverage") would be a monumental task, but without sufficient overlap (which doesn't happen because DNA slowly fragments into shorter and shorter pieces) the number of possible combinations is impossible to deal with. – Nick T Nov 5 '14 at 20:26
  • 6
    @coburne - I'm willing to accept the word of the man who is quite literally the leading expert in this field and has made this question his life's work – user7812 Nov 5 '14 at 22:28
  • 3
    @coburne It's probably worth noting that out of all the times people say "no way, it's impossible", a vast majority of the times they are right. The times they are wrong are notable not because they were incorrect, but because this is rare. – Michael Nov 6 '14 at 16:18
5

The following information is based on a book i read a few years ago, which i'm pretty sure is The Science of Jurassic Park and the Lost World, Or, How to Build a Dinosaur by Rob DeSalle and David Lindley.

Recovering dinosaur DNA from mosquitoes trapped in amber would be practically impossible.

First of all, there's a good chance that whatever the mosquito last sucked blood from was not a dino. There goes a whole bunch of samples.

Now, if somehow, you have a mosquito that sucked dinosaur blood and then got petrified in amber, the DNA would still be unusable. By the time the mosquito died, its stomach acids would have already dissolved the DNA past any recognizable state. After all, it's not instant - the amber is a bit slow to seep, and slow to dry.

So basically, dinosaur blood is practically impossible to find. And if it was found, you would not be able to create anything from it.

0

I'm inclined to say yes, based on new discoveries of fossils (and to be discovered fossils) and newly (to be) developed techniques.

To clone a dinosaur one requires well-preserved tissue that contains DNA, and techniques that take this DNA and create an actual dinosaur from it. It seems that for both of these points progress is made:

Soft tissue

Scientists discovered soft tissue of a T-Rex, which might contain (fairly complete) DNA. This discovery might lead to new insights regarding whether dinosaurs were warmblooded, coldblooded or both, and even about their evolution. And potentially well preserved DNA. Furthermore, new fossils are discovered quite regularly so who knows what gems are still undiscovered. It nevertheless proves that soft tissue can be preserved for millions of years.

Techniques

Though even if we would have the complete DNA, it would be hard to clone a dinosaur. As explained in this article about cloning Mammoths from found soft tissue. However, none of these problems seem unsolvable at the time being, yet are not solved now.

Ethics

Whether we should clone a dinosaur if we can is a whole different question. Also it raises new ethical questions as well: would the cloned dinosaur be an endangered species, can it survive in the wild, should it be placed in the wild at all, wouldn't be an advanced lab-rat?

  • This ignores all of the current scientific thinking. – user7812 Nov 6 '14 at 8:43
  • 4
    @invalid_id: Scientifically possible means that scientists today have an idea on how something could be done, and have proven the hypothesis to be solid to the extent currently possible. Saying "it might become possible in the future" is not scientific possibility. I like thinking out of the box myself, but simply pointing to Socrates ("we know that we know nothing") and considering everything possible doesn't help things. Current state of science says, no, currently we have to consider dino cloning unrealistic. This might change in the future, but for now, Richard's "no" is correct. – DevSolar Nov 6 '14 at 9:55
  • 2
    @DevSolar The point is scientist today do have an idea on how it could be done, they simple can't do it now. There's some hints that it is actually possible given the right fossil and some backward engineering. It's a theory, but that's what a scientific possibility always is (otherwise it would be a fact). – invalid_id Nov 6 '14 at 10:03
  • 2
    @invalid_id: Note that none of the sources you are citing even comes close to covering your claim. The WP article's quoted sources are actually about how the claims made by basically unknown scientists did not hold up to peer review, and those were not DNA sequences of "useable" length to begin with. (Not attacking you personally, just giving your arguments the usual "science vs. wishful thinking" flak.) – DevSolar Nov 6 '14 at 10:33
  • 1
    @DevSolar yes I'm aware of that, that DNA came from contaminated sources. I just point to some ongoing promissing research. I agree that there is some degree of wishful thinking involved, since we are nowhere near cloning dinosaurs. The original question actually is "if by chance, such a thing really happened (the story of mosquito biting dino and getting locked in amber) is it possible to create dinosaurs?", to which the answer is yes, if we find useable blood we should be able to do it. – invalid_id Nov 6 '14 at 11:09

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .