I’m sure you knew or at least presumed that the whole “Jurassic Park” method of bringing back Dinosaurs from in tact DNA samples could not be possible. But now we have new research that proves once and for all, that DNA cannot stay in tact for 80 million years (and then used by a wealthy entrepreneur to create a park full of dinosaurs).
Research and calculations carried out by Dr Mike Bunce and Dr Morten Allentoft from Murdoch University in Australia reveals that the if DNA bonds were preserved at the ideal temperature of -5C, they would be completely destroyed after about 6.8 million years. While the figure does show how the Jurassic scheme could never work, it is far older than the previous record of 450,000 to 800,000-year-old DNA found in Greenlandic ice cores.
Why are we only learning this now? First off, the number of examples that can be studied are very few. And even among the ancient DNA examples that have been found on earth, few have been kept in what qualify as “ideal” temperature or conditions. The key fossils the team were able to use to make this break thru: 158 leg bones of the moa, an extinct group of birds from New Zealand.
Interestingly, this new information about decay rates gives us a better idea of how long DNA will last into the future. As Dr. Bunce explains: “If the decay rate is accurate then we predict that DNA fragments of sufficient length will preserve in frozen fossil bone of around one million years in age.” So, it is now more clear that we can’t build Jurassic Park but we can still find some amazingly old and in-tact DNA samples. Will the last of their kind estimated to have died 6,500 years ago, maybe we can still build a Woolly Mammoth Park?
Source: Australasian Science
Photo: adwriter / flickr
Reference: Morten E. Allentoft, Matthew Collins, David Harker, James Haile, Charlotte L. Oskam, Marie L. Hale, Paula F. Campos, Jose A. Samaniego, M. Thomas P. Gilbert, Eske Willerslev, Guojie Zhang, R. Paul Scofield, Richard N. Holdaway, & Michael Bunce (2012). The half-life of DNA in bone: measuring decay kinetics in 158 dated fossils Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2012.1745