Vertebrate Paleontology

Could a dinosaur be cloned?
Answered by HowStuffWorks
  • HowStuffWorks


  1. The plot of the film "Jurassic Park" presented the most plausible scenario to date for cloning dinosaurs - or so it seemed. The cinematic scientists extracted dinosaur DNA from a mosquito that had been fossilized in amber. It's a terrific lynchpin for a story, but it's not terribly plausible. Most insect fossils found in amber are too recent; dinosaurs were extinct by the time they got caught in tree resin. Furthermore, even if you were able to find a fossilized mosquito that lived among the dinosaurs, for it to have dinosaur blood in its belly, it would have to been a female that had recently fed on a dinosaur before getting trapped. Insects decay from the inside out; even if trapped in amber, the blood within the insect would likely have decomposed.

    Given that the "Jurassic Park" technique is unlikely, some have speculated that dinosaurs might be able to be cloned if their DNA could be extracted from fossilized bones. But the problem with that theory is that you're not likely to find DNA in fossilized bones. The process of fossilization replaces decaying organic material with minerals; so any material that might hold DNA would likely be destroyed by the process. That said, scientists have recently found soft tissue in the bone of a Tyrannosaurus rex, though they have been unable to isolate any DNA from it.

    Others pondering a dinosaur clone have suggested DNA sequencing. The theory is that once dinosaur DNA is sequenced, scientists could then recreate DNA strands used to generate a cloned dinosaur. But it took scientists 13 years to complete the sequencing of human DNA, and that information didn't facilitate the cloning of humans. Even assuming that researchers could extract and sequence dinosaur DNA, it would not likely result in cloning a dinosaur.

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