Discovery Of DNA Half-Life Destroys Our Dream Of Cloned Dinosaurs In A Jurassic Park

10.11.12 7 years ago 6 Comments

Sorry, little guy, that’s not how it’s done.

Australian billionaire Clive Palmer’s fancy plans to clone a dinosaur may have just hit a snag. Palaeogeneticists in Denmark and Australia have identified the half-life of DNA under specific but common environmental conditions. The good news is that DNA has a 521-year half-life, which is much longer than previously expected. The bad news is that DNA is now projected to become unreadable after 1.5 million years even while preserved in amber, and every single nucleotide bond in the DNA disconnects within 6.8 million years even under an ideal temperature of −5 ºC. However, the last time dinosaurs roamed the Earth was in the Cretaceous Period (144 to 65 million years ago). So no Jurassic Park? Way to ruin my morning, science.

Palaeogeneticists led by Morten Allentoft at the University of Copenhagen and Michael Bunce at Murdoch University in Perth, Australia, examined 158 DNA-containing leg bones belonging to three species of extinct giant birds called moa. The bones, which were between 600 and 8,000 years old, had been recovered from three sites within 5 kilometres of each other, with nearly identical preservation conditions including a temperature of 13.1ºC. The findings are published today in Proceedings of the Royal Society B. [Nature via Gizmodo]

Although the study didn’t tell us if they do move in herds, it does suggest that we may be able to soon break the record (about 500,000 years) for the oldest DNA sequence. It was also notable that the ages of the samples “accounted for only 38.6% of the variation in DNA degradation.” It still sounds like we may not get a real Jurassic Park after all, even if we’ve spared no expense.

I guess we’ll just have to keep making our dinosaurs the old-fashioned way…

Now that’s how it’s done.

[Pictures via Sofa Pizza and Matt Ufford.]

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