The hearts of paleontologists around the world sank, this week, as Morten Allentoft at the University of Copenhagen and Michael Bunce at Murdoch University in Perth, Australia, reported the tragic finding that DNA Half-Life Measured, Suggests 'Jurassic Park' Dinosaur Scenario Would Never Work, crushing dreams that dinosaurs could be cloned from DNA preserved in amber, fossils, or some other medium.
According to a study published Oct. 10 in "Proceedings of the Royal Society B," the natural degradation of DNA suggests our dinosaur-cloning fantasies will never become reality. As it turns out, the so-called half-life of DNA--the span of time it takes for half of the molecular bonds in the genetic material to break--is just 521 years. This means that even under ideal conditions, DNA wouldn't be "readable" after 1.5 million years, according to Nature.com.
The youngest dinosaur fossils ever found are about 65 million years old.
For the study, Morten Allentoft at the University of Copenhagen and Michael Bunce at Murdoch University in Perth, Australia, analyzed 158 leg bones of extinct birds called moa. The bones all dated between 600 and 8,000 years of age. The results collected from each bone were averaged to arrive at the 521-year figure.
While the results of this study painted a clear picture of the degradation of DNA, according to Wired UK, they do not necessarily mean that the breakdown couldn't potentially be slowed in other conditions. But resurrecting dinosaurs using DNA pulled from mosquitos trapped in amber--the "Jurassic Park" scenario--is more than unlikely.
As sad as this news is, I would encourage readers not to give up all hope, or do anything extreme in despair, as it seems plausible to me, that even if we are not able to recover intact DNA fragments, due to their breakdown, can we not imagine a possibility that we could still gain sufficient clues as to the nature of the genetic sequences from residual chemicals still locked into sequence in fossils, after the original molecular bonds have disintegrated, that sometime in the future, with more advances in cloning technology, scientists may be able to reconstruct DNA that replicate dinosaur like creatures, or other extinct species, such as the woolly mammoths?
Keeping hope alive!