In the book by Michael Crichton which later became a major movie, “Jurassic Park,” the scientists extracted dinosaur DNA using primarily blood taken from mosquitoes, which had been preserved in amber. The idea was borrowed by Crichton from its originator, George O. Poinar, who first thought of it in 1980s. In the book/movie the DNA was mixed with reptilian and amphibian DNA to clone or recreate several dinosaurs. Many now wonder would this really be possible? Has cloning technology reached that level? Can scientists clone dinosaurs? Intriguing questions that begets a complicated answers.
Cloning a dinosaur is not the same as a Woolly Mammoth or extinct Ibex, those have “fresh” frozen tissue or, in some instances, actual preserved animals in museums. These mammal species also all have closely related living animals that can be used as surrogate mothers. The time period between when mammoths disappeared and elephants came into being is the same, dinosaurs have been extinct for over 65 million years. Close relatives would be difficult to locate, even for the smaller dinosaurs! That said, if surrogates were available, could it be done?
The first question that needs answering is would the blood from a mosquito preserved in amber be of sufficient purity or quality to contain intact dinosaur DNA? Would not the digestive juices of the insect breakdown and destroy the DNA beyond use? Amber was a sticky sap produced by primeval trees which the insects landed on, became stuck and then were slowly encased. It was not sudden, such as a flood, landslide, or glacial movement. The mosquito would slowly starve and digest any food it had before death. Using insects from amber would be unlikely. Also wouldn’t the DNA from the insect have mixed with the dinosaur blood?
If mosquitoes are out, could DNA be available from other sources for cloning? Dinosaur remains have been found that contain Dinosaur DNA, frozen, fossilized bones from millions of years ago and some partial DNA extracted. Could this be mixed with DNA from a lizard or frog and used to clone a dinosaur? Again, not likely with the current level of cloning technology.
DNA for most organisms is an extremely complex structure. Minor changes can make major differences, there is only 1% difference between a man and a chimpanzee; 5% difference from a man and a dog. If the sample from the dinosaurs is real it is probably less than 10% identifiable, a best case scenario. This means scientists would need to estimate over 90%, and that is from literally billions of possible combinations. It would not be cloning dinosaurs, it would be recreating a new creature that may look and act like we think a dinosaur should!
Could that be done, create a creature that looks like a dinosaur and behaves like what most believe a dinosaur should? Possibly, in the not to distant future if man and scientists decide it is worth the effort, time and expense. At present, cloning is still in the trial and error phase and there there are more important things to clone!