Dino Dna?

2 minute read
Christine Gorman

Anyone who thought Jurassic Park was farfetched should talk to molecular biologist Scott Woodward. In last week’s Science, Woodward announced that he had isolated DNA from an ancient creature that he was 90% sure was a dinosaur. If enough of it were collected, such a sample could, in theory, be cloned into a living specimen — just like in the movies. Woodward, an associate professor at Brigham Young University, extracted the DNA from two bone fragments found in a Utah coal mine, where they had been protected by muck and never fossilized.

So does this mean that a dinosaur assembly plant is on the way? Don’t hold your breath. The sections of DNA that Woodward collected are much too short for any practical use. The full complement of genes needed to create an organism contains billions of nucleic acid pairs. Woodward found 174 pairs, too few to be certain what animal they came from. “The pieces are so short that you can’t say they are like one thing or another,” says Ward Wheeler, a molecular biologist at the American Museum of Natural History. “It could be a turtle or a mammal or whatever.” Some researchers even suggest that the DNA Woodward extracted could have come from bacteria that feasted on the decaying carcass millions of years ago.

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