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Dino reality or just fantasy? (Interesting Science)

01/04/2015

Jurassic World has taken the world by storm, breaking all box office records in the process.  But is it actually possible?

The reality is that it could be, if (and that is a big if), we had access to dino DNA!  Unfortunately DNA is not stable in an aqueous environment and over a long period of time it degrades. The oldest DNA that has survived is about half a million years old and that comes from microbes. The youngest dinosaurs are from 66 million years ago, so it is most unlikely that we will ever get good DNA.

As for splicing from other animals which have perceived characteristics of dinosaurs, then this is also unlikely as we would not know the full spectrum of characteristics to engineer and then gestation may present some additional issues! 

Mammoth DNA dating from around 25,000 years old is available and attempts are being made to clone this fascinating extinct creature. It may perhaps be easier to make a really hairy elephant…

So Jurassic World is a great story and does a lot, it engenders interest in molecular biology and palaeontology, but the creation of a new dinosaur is most unlikely.

- Dr Neil Sullivan

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