Paleontology

Can Scientists Clone a Dinosaur



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Who among us, as a child, did not imagine how cool it would be to have our own pet dinosaur? One to ride to school or to chase away bullies. Those of us who grew up watching the cartoon television show "The Flintstones" imagined a world where dinosaurs and humans were "friends". This all changed years later when we watched Steven Spielbergs movie "Jurassic Park"

In the 1993 film, Jurassic Park, scientists cloned dinosaurs from bits of DNA found in prehistoric insects that were preserved in amber. Suddenly dinosaurs were real, and at first it was great, no deformed clones, no bizarre mistakes in DNA. The only downfall was their escape and destruction of the island, and eating pretty much anyone that got in their way.

While it is true that insects have been found in amber, it is not true that scientists have found viable dinosaur DNA in them. DNA is a very complex system, it deteriorates over time, and without an existing sample scientists could not be certain how to reassemble it the correct sequence.

Some people have theorized that we could gather DNA from dinosaur bones and fill in the gaps with frog DNA. This ignores one simple fact, fossils are not actual bones. Fossils are formed when sediment fills in around the bones, different minerals fill in the spaces where the bone actually was, and the bone itself vanishes. Very rarely soft tissue, such as skin is fossilized, but even then it is not actually skin any longer, but is rock, and rock does not contain DNA.

Scientists have cloned sheep, mice and even dogs. These are all mammals, a cloned embryo is implanted into the womb of the female for development. Dinosaurs laid eggs, where would we get a suitable egg for this purpose, and would the yolk provide the correct nutrition for the developing dinosaur? These are questions scientists would have to answer. Scientists have not been able to clone birds at this point.

Another step before cloning a dinosaur, would be cloning another prehistoric mammal to prove the viability of using old DNA. A mammoth would be a likely candidate for use a procedure. Even then, the age difference in the DNA is millions of years, so success in that endeavor would not mean success in bringing an even older species back to life.

Cloning has not been without its share of problems, not all cloned animals have proven to be healthy. This technology is still in its infancy, and has many moral implications.

Would the dinosaur even be able to survive in our times? I refer not only to climate, and vegetation, but the oxygen levels millions of years ago were different than they are now.

The ethics and logistics of cloning such a creature probably will not be considered nearly as much as the possibility of cloning the creature in the first place. With many of our current species becoming extinct at an alarming rate, do we need to recreate one that has been extinct for millions of years? As such, my answer to the question "Can scientists clone dinosaurs?" is "I do not think so, and certainly hope not.".

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