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Could Jurassic Park Really Happen?

Is it possible to create velociraptors, triceratops, and tyrannosaurus rexes by extracting DNA from mosquitoes in amber?  Everyday Einstein looks into the science of DNA cloning to figure out if Jurassic Park could actually happen today.

By
Lee Falin, PhD,
Episode #039

jurassic park dinoJurassic Park has become a classic of science fiction films. Many of its more iconic scenes have been parodied by other, newer films, including the Toy Story series, The Simpsons, and even Scooby Doo. In addition, the breathtaking computer animation used in the film opened the doors for filmmakers around the world to create scenes that they previously thought would be too costly or even impossible to film.

While its impact on popular culture is indisputable, unfortunately the science portrayed in the film is not as laudable as its computer graphics. Let’s look at what the film gets right and where it misses the mark.

Mosquitos in Amber

None of the fancy dinosaurs in the film would be possible without those hardworking (and likely underpaid) amber miners. The source of “Dino DNA,” as the film refers to it, comes from the blood contained within the fossilized remains of mosquitos that have been trapped in amber. Amber is the fossilized form of resin, which is the sticky stuff you might see oozing out of pine trees. Amber is formed when resin is subjected to high pressure and temperatures for an extended period of time.

Mosquitos and other insects are commonly found in amber, probably due to the fact that plants tend to use resin as a defense against insect damage. The oldest mosquito found in amber that I could find record of, dates back to around 90 million years ago. Making it very likely that it lived around the same time as many of the dinosaurs portrayed in the film.

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