Science There'll Be No Cloning Of Dinosaurs Says Palaeogeneticist

Published on October 10th, 2012 | by Steven Hodson


There’ll Be No Cloning Of Dinosaurs Says Palaeogeneticist

There'll Be No Cloning Of Dinosaurs Says Palaeogeneticist

Thanks to movies like Jurassic Park there is a belief that maybe one day we’ll be able to see a real live dinosaur thanks to cloning.

Well think again says palaeogeneticists Morten Allentoff at the University of Copenhagen and Michael Bunce at the Murdoch University in Perth because as they have discovered, there is a half life of DNA that precludes it from surviving the millions of years that dinosaurs have been extinct.

They figured out this DNA half-life, which is apparently 521 years, by examining 158 leg bones belonging to three species of extinct giant birds called moa. The bones used in the study were between 600 and 8,000 years and were all recovered from the same three sites that were within 5 miles of each other with nearly identical preservation conditions.

By comparing the specimens’ ages and degrees of DNA degradation, the researchers calculated that DNA has a half-life of 521 years. That means that after 521 years, half of the bonds between nucleotides in the backbone of a sample would have broken; after another 521 years half of the remaining bonds would have gone; and so on.

The team predicts that even in a bone at an ideal preservation temperature of −5 ºC, effectively every bond would be destroyed after a maximum of 6.8 million years. The DNA would cease to be readable much earlier — perhaps after roughly 1.5 million years, when the remaining strands would be too short to give meaningful information.

via Nature

It is findings like these that show that the commonly held belief that we would be able to extract usable DNA from dinosaurs and insect that were trapped in amber are incorrect.

Hopefully this will put to rest the silly idea of having a real life Jurassic Park showing up any time soon.



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About the Author

Steven has been around the tech world long enough to see most of the stuff we think of cool happen before which leads to a certain bit of cynicism that has contributed to him being known as the cranky old fart of the Internet. Besides sharing some of the goodness that he finds with you here at 42x you can also find him curating some digital goodness at Winextra (tech type stuff) and Rotten Gumdrops (for your daily dose of WTF).

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