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Dinosaur Cloning

  • Grades: 3–5, 6–8

The following questions were answered by dinosaur expert Don Lessem.

Q: Is it possible to clone extinct animals from blood samples fossilized in mosquitoes and other parasites?
A: Science still has problems figuring out how to clone any living animals, let alone fossils. We can extract tiny fragments of highly degraded DNA from fossil animals, and from insects trapped in amber. But insects aren't a good source for dinosaur DNA. We wouldn't know what kind of animal the mosquito has preyed upon, so it would be hard to identify their DNA. And we'd need a complete sequence, not a tiny strand, to have any hope of ever remaking the animal. Still, even a tiny bit of DNA can be very revealing, telling us much about how the animal evolved, and what living animals it is most closely related to. Several scientists think they have isolated fragments of dinosaur DNA directly from the bone of dinosaurs.

Q: Have there been any mosquitoes found that are dated back when dinosaurs are alive?
A: We do have mosquitoes in amber from dinosaur time. But so far we only have one male, and it is the female that collects blood. Even if we had blood we wouldn't know if it was from a dinosaur or some other animal.

Q: Do you think it is possible for dinosaurs to come back to life?
A: Dinosaurs can only come back to life in the movies. We have found bits of dinosaur DNA, but we'd need many, many more times that much to even begin to figure out how dinosaurs were made. And even if we could bring them back it might not be a good idea for us, and certainly not for the dinosaurs. The climate, the air, the germs, the plants are all different than in dinosaur times. There wasn't even any grass back then. Dinosaurs would have a hard time living in our world, even harder than we would living in theirs. So maybe it's best they've been gone for 65 million years. But I do miss them.

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  • Subjects:
    Science, Archaeology and Anthropology, Biology and Life Science, Archaeology, Heredity and Genetics, Dinosaurs, Paleontology and Fossils