Recreating dinosaurs?

Hi, I’ve heard somewhere that dinosaur DNA has been found (and that it was very similar to bird DNA). About 174 base pairs should have been found. I know that the Jurassic Park-method is virtually impossible, but I have also heard of a scientist proposing the idea of an “Emuasaurus” - a mix between dinosaur and emu DNA. So my questions are:

  1. Is it possible to find enough DNA from dromaeosaurids to make a dinosaur-like creature when mixed with the emu DNA?

  2. If not, is it then possible to breed emus back to a more original form? I have heard they have claws on their wings and tails with separated bones.

  3. If we took emu DNA and manipulated it (creating long tails, teeth, no beak etc.) would we then end up with a real-life dromaeosaurid or just a dinosaur look-a-like?

An *emu*saurus? That’s just mean. The thing will shame itself into suicide upon seeing its reflection for the first time.

How about something really dinosaur-looking, like a Cassowary?

  1. I truly doubt it. The genome of a dinosaur or the emu is probably on the order of a few billion base pairs. Ain’t no way you’ll ever piece that together with the occasional discovery of a few hundred or even thousand base pairs. And to piece it together into something functional, you’d need to find those fragments many times over for a given piece of the original genome.

  2. Probably. You’d end up with a vaguely dinosaur looking emu. A dolphin is not a fish, even though it evolved back into a similar form. And, contrary to popular opinion, a chihuahua is not a rat.

  3. That’s way beyond our current abilities. Transgenic chickens are on the cutting edge of genetic research, and even with the best-studied organisms it’s still not possible. Won’t be for a very long time most likely. The problem is that there aren’t “long tail” or “no beak” genes to manipulate. Developmental genes that control the growth and final form of an animal are all interacting in ridiculously complex circuits of interaction. Here’s a figure of such a pathway in a tiny nematode worm, and it represents a relatively simple pathway in one of the simplest model organisms. This shit is baroque in its complexity.

The current state of the art for designing and manipulating such circuits usually involves less than a dozen genes in bacteria.

Now, with a careful effort, we could combine modern genotyping techniques with traditional breeding to speed the process along a bit. Still, you won’t have a dinosaur, just a really weird looking emu.

Thus far, little, if any actual, dinosaur DNA has been recovered. There have been some reports of DNA being extracted from bones, but such results have not been able to replicated as yet, thus the jury is still out.

Further, even if we did have those 174 base pairs, that’s going to be similar to pretty much every living thing on the planet; that’s too small a sample to say it’s more like bird DNA than anything else.

Even further, the so-called “emusaurus” is really just another name for Jack Horner’s “dinochicken” project, wherein the plan is to simply mess with existing gene regulation in chickens to “grow” a bird that has the long, bony tail, teeth, and forelimbs of pre-avian theropods.

Doubtful. Even so, the current guess is that bird and dinosaur DNA is so similar that there’s no need to create a chimera; just mess with gene regulation as noted above.

See above. It’s probably not possible via actual breeding just yet, but the correct genes to make all the dino parts appear to still be in place. Developmental regulation of those genes just needs to be controlled such that everything is “turned on” or "off’ in the correct sequence to get something that looks more dinosaurian.

Technically, both. Birds are already dromaeosaurids. But what we’d get from the above method would still be every bit an emu or chicken - if you mated it with another of whatever it came from, you’d get…whatever it came from. That’s because they aren’t adding or subtracting any genes - the genome will be indistinguishable from the original chicken.

And, because it’s just going to be a dressed-up chicken, it wouldn’t be an actual pre-avian theropod dinosaur. Even if we could arrange it so the new critters breed true, they would be avian descendants, and so would be secondarily dino-like. It would, at best, be a post-avian theropod dinosaur, which would be a whole new type of critter.

I read a short book that talked about the steps needed to make a dino out of DNA. From what I recall a bunch of the steps are not possible now but might be in the future.

Anyone else get the image of dinosaurs on swing sets, water skiing, and picnicking upon reading the thread title?

Cloning technology is way, way behind what you are suggesting. We cant even get a visable clone from an animal extinct from the year 2000 with a perfect DNA sample and a very close relative as a surrogate womb. Franken-dinosaurs are many steps ahead of even that.

Previous discussion on the limits of cloning from recovered DNA here:


Eh, it’ll be some months yet before Franken is seated, and even then, he’s pretty publicly liberal, so I don’t think anyone will label him a DINO

(I’m sorry, the pun was just too good to pass up.)

Not currently. But this project has been given the highest priority possible by the nation’s six-year-olds.

Was it Billy and the Cloneasuarus?

I vote we do it just for the hellacool factor.

Maybe we could dress it in tight shirts and jeans, an old pair of converse sneakers, a studded belt, a pair of 50’s style hipster glasses, and follow that up with jet black dyed hair and comb its bangs over its eyes and make it an emo-saurus.

I don’t mean to hijack. But, is there a page or site out there that explains the process of cloning/gene manipulation in layman’s terms? Kinda like how NatGeo/Discovery/TLC would?



Couple quick links:

How Genetic Engineering Works
How Cloning Works

I’m throwing my hands up here - I saw a TV show where some scientist was manipulating chicken egg embryo DNA and recreating dinosaur traits, but damned if I can recall what channel it was or track it down with Google.

Sorry, I thought it would be pretty helpful.

There is a nice book, “The Science of Jurassic Park and the Lost World” that discusses the technical problems in an entertaining way.

I remember the one you’re talking about. It was on National Geographic, I think. Interesting show, even if the sight of a bald, pebbly chicken with teeth was kind of ick.

And How to Build a Dinosaur: Extinction Doesn’t Have to be Forever discusses the current “Dinochicken” project (wherein they aren’t adding, subtracting, or combining genes, just attempting to control gene expression to turn a chicken into a dino-like critter).