Paleontology

Cloning a Dinosaur



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Technology seems to be the master of this world. It can do anything. Michael Crichton's stunning tale of an Amusement park filled with cloned dinosaurs fired the imagination of an impressionable public. Crichton, a master of taking a sliver of truth and weaving a masterful story, used the advances in technology to create "Jurassic Park." In the shadow of this fictional movie, the real world released a series of scientific studies that seemed to confirm the basic premise of "Jurassic Park:" DNA could be extracted from insects that had been captured in tree sap (amber).
Could it be that science could clone dinosaurs?




In order to clone a living thing, it is necessary to have a complete DNA sequence. DNA acts as a blueprint to construct an organism. It is unique for each life form. It directs the construction and function of each part of the living thing. DNA is a very long strand of millions smaller molecules. DNA tends to break apart easily even under the best of conditions. In order to clone the dinosaur, its DNA has be obtained. There are three possible means of isolating dinosaur DNA. First, like the Jurassic Park adventure, it could be found in an preserved biting insect that has the body fluid of a dinosaur. Second, DNA possibly could be obtained from the fossilized bone of dinosaurs. And, finally, a genome could be possibly be created from present day reptiles, birds and mammals.




To believe that 65 million year old DNA can be gather and then grown into a living thing is highly questionable. Several reports of recovering DNA from insects trapped in tree sap were made following the release of the movie. However, the results of those findings are questionable. The reports were tested again and again without success. Sound scientific work must be able to be repeated. The possibility of having the technology to extract DNA is highly unlikely if not impossible. There are not that many insects trapped in amber from that time period and extraction of any DNA has thus far been impossible.




The suggestion that DNA can be obtained from dinosaur bones that have sat In the ground for millions of years creates some serious issues. The fossil bones would have calcified over time replacing any living tissue. Therefore, the probability of obtaining DNA from fossilized bone is slim to non-existent. Claims that DNA have been found in fossilized bone raises the issue of contamination from the surrounding soil. The possibility of obtaining DNA in this manner is very doubtful.




The third possibility is to create a clone of a dinosaur by using the DNA of present day reptiles, bird and mammals. This DNA can be used, according to some individuals, to create a DNA map (genome) of a dinosaur. The theory goes on to say that from the genome, appropriate segments of modern day DNA could be linked into a DNA chain that would then be implanted in an reptilian egg. The egg would develop and hatch a baby dinosaur. There are some gaps in this concept. Foremost is the fact that DNA sequence from a dinosaur is not know and it is pure conjecture to construct this DNA chain. Using parts and pieces of modern day creatures could well result in some malformed mass. This is great grist for science fiction story writers. Present day technology allows scientists to clone living things. Dolly the sheep captured headlines around the world. Since then frogs, cats, dogs, and a host of other modern day creatures have been clones. Present day examples of clones (sheep, bacteria and frogs) begins with viable cellular DNA and not a genome map. Dinosaurs have been extinct for 65 million years. There is no technology at present that would allow the use of genome maps to clone an extinct organism.




Can scientists clone dinosaurs? Cloning dinosaurs would require the ability to bring a something that is dead back to life. Science and technology are good but not that good. This idea of cloning past life forms is intriguing but it raises the concerns of "The Monkey's Paw." The technology is just not there and most probably will never be there. DNA is a chemical compound that is fragile and deteriorates quickly. So the possibility of obtaining actual DNA of a creature that became extinct millions of years ago is highly unlikely. Therefore, cloned dinosaurs will not be a threat to any cities in near or far future.

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