Have you ever wondered if scientists were able to recreate or clone dinosaurs again today?
This question was posed by William Ausich, professor emeritus of paleontology at The Ohio State University, recently in an article on The Conversation.
DNA – which stands for deoxyribonucleic acid – is something in every cell of every organism that ever lived on Earth – including dinosaurs. And you can imagine that your DNA is just the molecules that carry your genetic code, a set of instructions that help bodies and minds grow and thrive.
Of course, your DNA is different from that of others, and it determines many characteristics that define you, such as the color of your eyes or whether your hair is straight or curly.
DNA can be found in the “soft parts” of the animal, including its organs, blood vessels, nerves, muscles and fat, but the soft parts of dinosaurs decayed long ago.
A fossil of Parasaurolophus, a dinosaur that lived during the Cretaceous period in what is now North America.
Is DNA present in fossils?
Dinosaur fossils are all that remains of prehistoric animals. Fossils are defined as the remains of the “hard parts” of a dinosaur such as its bones, teeth and skull that were preserved for tens of millions of years, immersed in ancient mud, minerals and water.
Most of the dinosaur fossils discovered to this day were in riverbeds, lakes, cliffsides and in mountains, often very close to the surface, embedded in sedimentary rock.
So with enough fossils, scientists can build a dinosaur skeleton in the way you see it when you go to the museum.
The problem of ‘dino-DNA’
DNA molecules eventually decay. Recent studies show DNA deteriorates and ultimately disintegrates after about 7 million years.
That sounds like a long time, but the last dinosaur died at the end of the Cretaceous Period. That’s more than 65 million years ago.
That means, as far as scientists know, and even using the best technology available today, it’s not possible to make a dinosaur from its DNA.
Brachiosaurus, a herbivore from the Jurassic Period.
Although it’s too late to find dino-DNA, scientists recently discovered something interesting when they found fossils less than two million years old that contained the DNA of Neanderthals and other ancient mammals such as the woolly mammoth.
Now that makes sense; those fragments are less than 2 million years old, well before all of the DNA would decay.