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shurley
05-15-2005, 08:48 AM
If a mosquito bit a dinosaur, and then got covered in amber, could a scientist really get some dinosaur DNA from the blood in the mosquito and use it to clone a dinosaur?

Thank you for trying to help me,

Patrick Hurley (age 6)

tomndebb
05-15-2005, 09:36 AM
Well, Charlie Pellegrino, the guy who claims to have given Crichton the idea, still thought it is possible ten years ago (http://atropos.as.arizona.edu/aiz/teaching/a204/dino/Omni95.17.8.68.txt), although he claimed it would be 20 years in his future (ten years in our future). (Someone just might have to summarize the article for Patrick.)

This movie critique of Jurassic park makes a few negative claims, most important of which is:3.) You cannot find any DNA in a mosquito trapped in amber except for the mosquito's own DNA. The dinosaur DNA (if there was any in the first place) would have been fully digested before the mosquito was totally trapped in the amber.
And this science page from the SSEP claims that it is not possible (http://www.shodor.org/ssep/lessons/jurassic/fact.html) (with a disclaimer of "with current technology").

(One small nitpick about the movie presentation: the insect would have been a "biting fly" similar to a mosquito, but mosquitoes had not yet evolved in the Jurassic.)

Race Bannon
05-15-2005, 09:37 AM
Shurley (Patrick):
The question you ask is, of course, the basis of the science fiction book and film Jurassic Park. I am no dinosaur or DNA expert, but there is a book by someone who is, and he addresses this very question. In the book Dinosaur in a Haystack, a well known scientist Jay Gould talks about this possibility, and criticizes the book/movie on many of its scientific points. If your interested, I recommend that you check this book out from a library, and read this chapter (it's only a small part of the book).

His general comment is that, while the idea of reconstructing dinosaurs from DNA is theoretically intriguing, there are just too many problems to think it can ever be done. I think he comes out and says it's impossible.

He does, however, describe real-life situations where people have found and analyzed plant DNA from millions of years ago.

tomndebb
05-15-2005, 10:45 AM
Beyond biting bugs in amber, Scott Woodward of Brigham Young University thought he had discovered dinosaur DNA back in 1995. Others expressed the opinion that his discovery was simply some human contamination that got into his sample and I never heard the final resolution.

Recently, soft tissue was found inside the fossil bone of a T-Rex, but trhey have not yet discovered DNA: Scientists find soft tissue in T-rex bone (http://www.abc.net.au/news/newsitems/200503/s1331570.htm)
(The absence of references to Woodward's find in this article lead me to believe that Woodward must have given up his claim.)

Smeghead
05-15-2005, 02:22 PM
And even the claimed sequence was only a few dozen bases long, IIRC. Trying to recreate a dinosaur genome from that would be like trying to recreate Moby Dick from these letters: "j e i m br"

John Mace
05-15-2005, 02:30 PM
If a mosquito bit a dinosaur, and then got covered in amber, could a scientist really get some dinosaur DNA from the blood in the mosquito and use it to clone a dinosaur?

Thank you for trying to help me,

Patrick Hurley (age 6)

You can get DNA, but what you need are a fully intact set of chromosomes. That's the problem. There was a very interesting PBS special (hosted by Jeff Goldblum) that expored this very issue. I can't remember the exact name, but you might be able to find it by searching their web site.

Darwin's Finch
05-15-2005, 03:53 PM
If a mosquito bit a dinosaur, and then got covered in amber, could a scientist really get some dinosaur DNA from the blood in the mosquito and use it to clone a dinosaur?

Check out this website (http://www.sdnhm.org/research/paleontology/jp_qanda.html). A lot of the problems with trying to clone dinosaurs from blood found in mosquitoes are examined there.

(One small nitpick about the movie presentation: the insect would have been a "biting fly" similar to a mosquito, but mosquitoes had not yet evolved in the Jurassic.)

Mosquitos of the subfamily Anophelinae likely did evolve sometime during the Mesozoic. See this abstract (http://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/tandf/usyb/2001/00000050/00000004/art00008). Despite the name of the novel/movie/themepark, the "Jurassic" timeframe is in name only; many of the dinosaurs featured were, in fact, from the Cretaceous (the point being that even if mosquitoes hadn't evolved by the Jurassic, they were still likely contemporary with Cretaceous species).

drewbert
05-15-2005, 04:58 PM
By the way, Patrick, good for you for wondering if something you saw in a movie could really happen. There's a lot of very, very bad "science" in movies. Don't ever get your education at the cineplex ;)

Tom Carroll
05-15-2005, 06:32 PM
I think it would be easier to build a time machine, go back in time, get a dinosaur egg and bring it back to now then doing the DNA thing. And the time machine would have more uses.

Askance
05-15-2005, 09:19 PM
Great question from a 6yo! I hope you go on to study science!

All the replies so far have focussed on recovering the DNA, not the last part of the question about using it to clone a dinosaur.

Even if the entire DNA were recoverable, this is roughly the equivalent of being given the blueprints for a 747. It's only a tiny part of the task, building it from scratch is the tough part. First you have to build the tools to build the tools ... you get the idea.