No, We Didn't Just Find Dino DNA

No, We Didn't Just Find Dino DNA

One of the biggest roadblocks to making Jurassic Park a reality, aside from Jeff Goldblum's declining sex appeal, is the fact that DNA can't actually be preserved in the way John Hammond's whimsical animation explains. According to our current understanding of science, which is "pretty good" on the scale of "prosecuting Galileo for heliocentrism" to "uploading our brains into robots," even perfectly preserved DNA can't last much longer than five million years. Politicians notwithstanding, dinosaurs went extinct considerably more than five million years ago, so these headlines were understandably eyebrow-raising.

Dinosaur DNA and proteins found in fossils, paleontologists claim

Cartilage cells, chromosomes and DNA preserved in 75-million-year-old baby duck-billed dinosaur

Has dinosaur DNA been found and could it make Jurassic Park possible?

Sadly, for those of us who are pretty apathetic toward the continued existence of humanity versus the possibility of riding a raptor, what they found wasn't an ancient mosquito full of tasty dino blood. It was "microstructures within the cartilage" of a specimen of Hypacrosaurus that lived between 74 and 80 million years ago that kind of sort of looks like it could be DNA of some kind. The scientists described their findings with a lot "suggests," "potential," and "remnants of," and other qualifiers right out of shady apartment listings. Even if we somehow have genuine dino DNA on our carefully gloved hands, it's unlikely to be usable for anything cool, as the oldest complete genome scientists have managed to cobble together is 700,000 years old. It might still be valuable from a scientific perspective, just not a theme park one.

It doesn't help, though, that one of the lead researchers, Mary Schweitzer, has a history of such claims that turned out to likely be contamination from modern sources of DNA. She insists this is a totally different thing, but other experts insist just as hard, in scientific terms, that it's way not. Even she's not "willing to call it DNA because I'm cautious, and I don't want to overstate the results," but she also challenged skeptics to come up with a better explanation (which, y'know, they did immediately). Honestly? Make a movie about this brash, possibly incompetent but equally passionate paleontologist. What's her story, huh?

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