A new study suggests the worst possible news for fans of Jurassic Park: it’s not possible to isolate DNA from amber-preserved insects.
Researchers from the University of Copenhagen tried to isolate DNA from a preserved 10,000 year-old bee and one that was about 60 years old.
The bees were actual preserved in Copal, not amber. Copal is the precursor to amber, when the tree resin hasn’t fully hardened. It is still slightly gummy and is much younger than true amber.
They were able to get some DNA data, but they weren’t able to match it to any known DNA sequences — a sign the data that they got was an artifact of their procedure. Finding that the insects in copal weren’t able to provide DNA means bad news for people hoping to get DNA from amber-preserved insects.
Previous experiments that have claimed to isolate and amplify DNA from million-year-old amber are probably just false positives from contamination with modern DNA, the authors said.
The authors write in the paper, “our results raise further doubts about claims of DNA extraction from fossil insects in amber, many millions of years older than copal.”
The study was published in the journal PLoS ONE on September 11.
This finding confirms an earlier study that estimated the half-life of DNA to be about 521 years. That number means that half of the DNA in a sample is lost every 521 years. The researchers estimated that it would be almost impossible to get enough DNA information from fossils older than 1.5 million years to reconstruct a genome.
So going back to the Jurassic era, which ended about 145 million years ago, it would be virtually impossible to find enough intact DNA to reconstruct a dinosaur genome.
Looks like that eccentric Australian mining magnate Clive Palmer will never get to live out his dream of building a real-life Jurassic park.
These findings are on top of plenty of other scientific problems with the movie. First of all, the mosquito they pictured in amber wasn’t even the right species — they picked the only species of mosquito that doesn’t even suck blood.
That being said, we are still psyched about Jurassic World (the new name for the upcoming Jurassic Park IV)