Dinosaur fossils are unlike anything else on Earth. They are the preserved remains of ancient creatures that walked the Earth at some point in the past. Let’s suppose a team of scientists finds a preserved dinosaur bone. Can they piece together the dinosaur’s DNA and bring it back to life? If we could generate an entire dinosaur species in a lab using today’s technology, how would we use it? Would we release it into the wild?
Deoxyribonucleic acid – DNA for short – is a self-replicating material present in every living cell in every organism ever discovered. However, studies show that DNA begins to break down and eventually disintegrates after roughly 7 million years, and the last living dinosaurs existed more than 65 million years ago after the Cretaceous Period. The DNA within the bones of dinosaurs decays fairly quickly, and it’s unlikely that any skeletons you find would have intact genetic material that could yield viable dinosaur DNA.
While there is no hope for dinosaur DNA, scientists have found fossil DNA from other ancient species, including a woolly mammoth. Many aspects of early mammalian evolution remain unknown, but a new find indicates that ancient DNA could provide important clues about how different species came to live together in Europe and Asia over hundreds of thousands of years.
Imagine if a science team found a complete set of dinosaur DNA while digging in a desert. The excitement would be mad – but it wouldn’t last long. The team would soon realize that the chances of success were slim. DNA is notoriously tough to modify, and longer stretches of DNA are needed to create a complete organism. Therefore, the DNA would have to be combined with that of another animal, which means that the result would not be a dinosaur, but a new hybrid animal.