Recently in China a treasure-trove of very well-preserved pterosaur eggs was discovered—one of the most stunning of such discoveries ever made. Included in this find were dino embryos. Which naturally begs the question (especially if you’ve seen any of the Jurassic Park movies): could dinosaurs possibly be cloned from all that?
And if they can be cloned…should they? (assuming you haven’t already made your mind up from watching Jurassic Park)
Let’s first look at the scenario presented by Jurassic Park itself: in which dino DNA inside a mosquito caught in amber was used to create Hammond’s Folly. LiveScience reports that this has already been largely debunked as a workable theory in the non-cinematic world, as amber apparently does not preserve DNA very well.
In fact, it’s pretty hard to preserve DNA over thousands, and millions, of years. It starts to degrade as soon as the organism passes on. Certainly, freezing helps: the oldest & most intact DNA sample, found from bone, was found in the remains of a 700,000 year old horse frozen in Canada.
In the case of the recent find in China, the embryos are fossilized—making it unlikely to yield much organic tissue from which DNA could be pulled. In 2005, scientists pulled what they thought were bone and blood cells from a Tyrannosaurus bone; upon further study, what they thought was soft tissue turned out to be bacterial biofilms (a hodge-podge mix of bacteria held together by proteins and other stuff).
This is all not to say that sometime in the future we won’t find that crucially well-preserved specimen, or that scientific advancements might make it possible to yield a complete DNA sequence from less-than-ideal fossil material. But even if we could clone the dinosaurs, it might be a disaster.
There is increasing interest in the scientific community in “de-extincting”—recreating extinct species through the use of DNA and other means. However, there is the question as to what physical and emotional stresses the newly “resurrected” representative of the extinct species will go through—being the only living member of its kind, as well as being subject to the types of common deformities cloned animals are prone to.
And then there’s the idea of introducing a new (or long-absent) creature to the present eco-system. Would this cause problems on a scale we can’t possibly anticipate?
Regardless, there are several de-extinction projects already underway with the gastric brooding frog and the passenger pigeon—as well as a far more ambitious one concerning the Woolly Mammoth. And using genetic engineering, certain dinosaur-like “qualities” can be placed within the embryos of birds—as in the case in Chile, where scientists created dinosaur-like fibulas in their lower legs of chicken embryos.
So whatever happens with that latest pterosaur egg discovery…the idea of de-extinction is not going away any time soon, and is most likely to become a topic of greater and greater importance in the future.
More to read about on Butterfly Language:
Elephants And Hippos Will Be Our New Dinosaurs
Do Cute Endangered Species Get Priority For Preservation?
Hasbro’s Robotic Pets Will Never Need A Litter Box Or A Walk