Ever since the first JURASSIC PARK released in 1993, I’ve held on to the hope that scientists would make it possible for me to see a real dinosaur in my lifetime. After all, the movie made the science seem so plausible.
In March of 2014, NewsHound had gotten my hopes up further when they posted an article stating that British scientist had successfully cloned a baby Apatosaurus. According to the article scientists had extracted the DNA from an Apatosaurus fossil at a museum. Once collected, the DNA was then injected into an ostrich womb. Dr. Gerrard Jones, a biology professor at LJMU stated, “Ostriches share a lot of genetic traits with dinosaurs, their eggshell microstructures are almost identical to those of the Apatosaurus. That’s why the cloning worked so perfectly.” So it seemed, for a very brief moment, as though we’ve made giant strides towards bringing dinosaurs back for the general public’s viewing pleasure. However, before we start there may be a few things we should look into…
Have We Ever Found Dinosaur DNA?
Let’s start off on a positive note. Although no one has ever come across a blood filled mosquito perfectly preserved in amber from the Jurassic Period, scientists have been able to find dinosaur DNA in preserved soft tissue.
But then we run into other problems…
How Long Does DNA Last?
The first obstacle you’re going to run into is finding viable DNA. DNA has a half-life of 521 years. This means that every 521 years half the bonds found in DNA are broken. So under the absolute best conditions, viable DNA could last up to 6.8 million years. Unfortunately, the dinosaurs went extinct 65 million years ago.
So let’s ignore this pesky time problem for a moment and just pretend we find some almost perfectly preserved DNA with only a few missing pieces. Can’t we just glue it all back together?
Can We Fill in Those DNA Blanks?
In the first film, the park’s scientists filled in the missing pieces of DNA by splicing in the DNA from a frog. Unfortunately, we don’t have an intact dinosaur DNA sequence to tell us where all the missing pieces are. Without this set of instructions or blueprint, we have no way of knowing where everything goes. It would be like someone giving you half the pieces from an Ikea desk and half the pieces from an Ikea bookshelf and expecting you build the desk without any instructions. In the end, you would have something that resembles both the desk and the bookshelf but may not function as either and would be nonreturnable because Ikea has a crappy return policy.
Is There a Suitable Replacement for a Dinosaur Womb?
Dinosaurs were hatched from eggs, and therefore cannot just be implanted into any animal. A dog can’t give birth to a chicken just because you implant an embryo into him. Therefore, you need an egg. In the film, they created plastic eggs.
However in reality these eggs would lack the nutrients a dinosaur embryo requires for development. A chicken egg does not contain the same nutrients as a turtle egg. Therefore, neither would be a suitable host for the other. So until we have an intact fresh dinosaur egg and a way to reproduce the nutrients found in that egg and place them in to a synthetic egg, we are not going to have a suitable receptacle for a dinosaur embryo to develop in.
In the end it turned out the NewsHound article that had circled around the internet in chain emails and Facebook posts was just a hoax, and that picture of an Apatosaurus that accompanied the article was actually a baby kangaroo.