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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
4-minute read
Episode #39

What’s in a Name?

Speaking of time periods, the name of the theme park (and the film) is a bit misleading. The “Jurassic” period is a span of time ranging from 145 million to around 200 million years ago. Unfortunately, with the exception of the stegosaurus and brachiosaurus (brachiosauri…brachiosaruses…?), none of the major dinosaurs portrayed in the film lived during that period.

Tyrannosaurus rex, triceratops, and the infamous velociraptor, all lived during the latter part of the cretaceous period, which occurred around 66 to 100 million years ago. I suppose “Cretaceous Park” doesn’t have as nice a ring to it. This also makes one wonder how the park scientists were able to get the DNA for the stegosaurus and brachiosaurs, since they lived tens of millions of years before the first mosquito we have record of. Hmmm…

Mosquitos and DNA

Which brings us to our next question: Can DNA from a mosquito’s last meal be sucked out of its tummy? The answer to this question is a definite yes. One of the notable things about red blood cells is that unlike almost every other cell of your body, they don’t contain any DNA. Fortunately for those wanting to create dinosaur theme parks, white blood cells do contain DNA and can be found inside mosquito blood meals.

In fact, scientists are able to use the DNA found in mosquitos for forensic analysis in solving crimes, and in epidemiological studies that involve tracking which people mosquitos have bitten.

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About the Author

Lee Falin, PhD

Dr. Lee Falin earned a B.S. in Computer Science from the University of Illinois, then went on to obtain a Ph.D. in Genetics, Bioinformatics, and Computational Biology from Virginia Tech.