A brief follow-up to my Jurassic Park post. Sadly, science seems to indicate that we are unlikely to ever clone dinosaurs from blood trapped in the guts of ancient mosquitoes that were trapped in amber. First up, a study showing that amber (or in this case, copal, which is a type of hardened tree resin that would eventually become amber) is not a very good medium for preserving ancient DNA.
In brief, these guys tried to extract the DNA of two stingless bees that were preserved in copal. One bee was less than 60 years old, while the other was more than 10,000 years old. They had no real luck with either specimen, though they did get slightly longer fragments from the younger sample. Still, we are talking about really recent specimens, when you consider that dinosaurs have been gone for more than 65 MILLION YEARS.
But wait! Maybe these guys just really sucked at their job. Maybe there is still hope that smarter scientists with better tools will someday be able to make this work and give me a pet T. rex! Well, sadly, science comes along to dash my hopes and dreams once more.
As it turns out, the half-life (the amount of time that it takes half of the material to degrade) is only 521 years, under the best of conditions. In a moist environment, or subjected to bacteria, radiation or other degrading factors, it will be gone a lot sooner. So under the very best of conditions, every single bond holding the DNA together would be gone within 6.8 million years. The preserved DNA might still be readable, sort of, for as long as 1.5 million years, but again, we are talking about conditions of ideal preservation. That still seems like a really long time, but it is sadly nowhere near long enough to be able to bring back the dinosaurs.
This is really bringing me down. It looks like I am going to have to pin my hopes on time travel to bring dinosaurs back to life. Fortunately, there is plenty of evidence that time travel is real!