The possibility of cloning dinosaurs has been a subject of scientific debate since the discovery of DNA, and it is just as lively now as it ever has been. Recent attempts at cloning animals has fueled the debate over whether or not it’s possible, what type of problems may arise, and most outspokenly whether or not cloning is an ethically sound practice. Such scientific controversies have found their way into our society by way of action movies depicting dinosaurs walking amongst humans in the modern world, their creation having been brought about by many of the real world ideas regarding cloning.
The natural wonder of the human spirit combined with the fascination of people everywhere continues to fuel the scientific pursuit of answers regarding the possibility of cloning extinct animals. Due to the ongoing study of DNA and gene manipulation, it is certain that scientist would need three specific things in order to successfully clone a dinosaur. Whether or not these specific materials can be attained now is still an unknown variable, but there are legitimate methods that could potentially prove successful in terms of technique.
The three absolutely essential needs that must be met in order to clone a dinosaur would be DNA, an intact cell, and advancements in technology that would give scientists a greater degree of control over the process. The DNA of the creature that is to be cloned would be the logical place to start, but finding DNA samples from the time period that dinosaurs lived seems quite improbable. While it has been speculated that blood from a mosquito could provide the dinosaur DNA, there are some important factors to consider that reduces the probability of finding usable DNA in that manner. It is important to note that no specimens of mosquito’s have been found that date back as far as the dinosaurs; and in order to contain the blood that would be needed for cloning, the mosquito must be a female. It must also have been preserved as a resin fossil, meaning that it would have been fossilized in amber in order to retain the largest amount of original material, a fossilization method that is quite rare.
The next portion of the materials to be used is equally important as the DNA, the host cell. Once the DNA has been prepared and is coiled around the protein strands called histones, it is then injected into the nucleus of a cell where it can grow and mature. Finding an appropriate host cell may prove to be even more difficult than providing the DNA for the clone. The DNA itself can be altered, a process that is required regardless, but the host cell cannot be. The need for both DNA and a host cell ensures that two specimens are needed in order to clone a dinosaur. If the technique of finding usable specimens is attained by means of resin fossilization, we don’t know enough about the dinosaur genome to accurately predict what kind of creature we have, or if the two specimens are even compatible.
The technological ability and groundbreaking know-how required to clone extinct species would be considerable. When it comes to cloning dinosaurs, geneticists would have to splice gene strands and work to form and alter complete chromosomes when all they have from the original creature is fragments. Much of what we know about human genes and DNA structuring comes from the Human Genome Project, a similar understanding of dinosaur genetics would be required in order to clone them. By collecting information and building upon a genome database, a program geared towards that end would be necessary in order to attempt to clone dinosaurs. By studying human genes and chromosome molecules, scientist have discovered how DNA fits together to form a distinct organism, right down to their behavioral traits.
In the case of cloning a dinosaur, understanding how their DNA works would require multiple specimens that could be compared to one another in an effort to discover traits. The DNA can be altered however, and some have theorized on how this should take place, including the use of frog DNA to fill in some of the many missing links. Sequencing of the DNA structures would be extremely difficult however, and actually attaining the correct materials needed to do this in the first place is nearly impossible. Consider, two sources would be required to attain both DNA and the host cell, and there would be no conclusive means of identifying exactly what those samples are. It is these chromosomes that would first have to be programmed and partially pieced together with frog DNA in order to be complete, and then grown by a series of probable successes or failures.
There have been recent successful cloning attempts however, and even an extinct type of bee was once cloned. In some of these cases however, there are discrepancies in the laboratory results and at times the same result could not be attained twice. A method by which to clone woolly mammoth DNA and revive the species by reproduction with African Elephants over several generations has recently been theorized, and deemed probable. As our knowledge of the fossil record grows and new scientific methods are rendered, perhaps our understanding of DNA will allow for the cloning of dinosaurs in the future, but the raw materials required to do so simply aren’t available right now. Future discoveries may make the goal of cloning a dinosaur more attainable however, and a shift toward the acquisition and conservation of new specimens is essential.