There are two types of people in the world. Those who were fascinated by the world created in Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park and others who are petrified by the very possibility of it. But since director Steven Spielberg brought the romance to life with his 1993 film of the same name, many people have wondered. Is it possible to recreate dinosaurs, given the advances in science and the study of DNA? In Jurassic Park, scientists use DNA to create a variety of dinosaur species, including Triceratops, Velociraptor and the fearsome T. Rex.
In reality, it’s easier to imagine than to do, experts say. William Ausich, professor emeritus of paleontology at Ohio State University, explained in a column in The Conversation that the task becomes extremely difficult given the fact that all that’s left of dinosaurs are their fossils. DNA, on the other hand, is easily obtained from the “soft parts” of a being. It could be organs, blood vessels, nerves, muscle and fat, he said.
In response to a question from a five-year-old, William Ausich was quoted as saying: “Immersed for tens of millions of years in ancient mud, minerals and water, fossils come from the so-called ‘hard parts’ of the dinosaur – its bones , teeth and skull.” The soft part, Ausich said, “either decomposed or was eaten by another dinosaur”.
Explaining the complexities of DNA, he added: “DNA – which means deoxyribonucleic acid – is something in every cell of every organism that has ever lived on Earth, including dinosaurs.” He likened it to molecules that carry the genetic code, which in turn is described as “a set of instructions that helps bodies and minds grow and thrive.”
And those molecules decay, Ausich said. “Recent studies show that DNA deteriorates and ultimately disintegrates after about 7 million years,” he explained, citing an article published in the journal Nature.
Given that the last dinosaur died 65 million years ago, the chances of finding DNA were extremely small. Ausich said that even if scientists were able to discover fragments of a dinosaur, they wouldn’t be able to make a complete dinosaur.
“Instead, they would have to combine the fragments with the DNA of a modern animal to create a living organism,” he added. According to the paleontologist, this organism would not be a complete or real dinosaur, but a hybrid of dinosaur and bird or reptile.