The simple answer is no, a scientist could not clone a dinosaur. Well, not yet, anyway, and it’s highly unlikely that scientists could clone a dinosaur from mosquito DNA.
Let’s start by talking about the parts in the movie “Jurassic Park” where they got it right. Amber does exist. Amber is a tree resin that has been fossilized and preserved due to high pressure and temperature, covered by many layers of sediment over thousands of years. Eventually, it can harden to make a gemstone that is actually quite expensive, and people do turn the gemstone into jewelry! It is possible things could get trapped in the amber; scientists have indeed found mosquitoes and biting flies preserved in amber from the time of the dinosaurs, but unfortunately, the amber only preserves the outside, the “husk”, not the soft tissue. Any tasty snack they had before getting trapped doesn’t get preserved.
Lebanese amber specimen from the Early Cretaceous Period
There is fun news though! Scientists have found DNA residue inside prehistoric bugs! They just weren’t found in amber, they were found in the dinosaur bones! Dr. Susie Maidment and a team of scientists from the Natural History Museum in the UK have discovered what could be red blood cells inside a dinosaur bone from the cretaceous period, and in 2020, scientists from the US and China found cartilage that possibly contains Dinosaur DNA. Unfortunately though, just because you find blood cells in dinosaur bones, doesn’t mean you have found dinosaur DNA. Cloning a dinosaur isn’t that easy; DNA is super vulnerable. It breaks down rapidly and has to be handled in very strict conditions
Here’s where Jurassic Park got the dinosaur cloning science a bit wrong. In order to clone something, you need an intact, living DNA cell, and a living host of the same species. Since dinosaurs are extinct, it would be pretty hard to use one as a host. In the movie, Jurassic Park, they took fragmented DNA, figured out where in the genetic code the holes were and filled the DNA sequence with frog DNA, then used a science lab to grow the dinosaur clone. The big problem with this is, if you don’t have the full sequence of the DNA already, you don’t know where the holes are! Even if you did, it wouldn’t help to fill it with frog DNA; you would need to use birds. Or you may use crocodiles, but to clone a dinosaur you definitely would not use frogs.
Compsognathus: SMNS, R. Haring. & M. Aurich
Scientists are giving cloning a go though. There are a few labs that are trying to reverse-engineer extinct animals (not dinosaurs…yet!). Scientists think this could be a way to bring back species that have gone extinct during the years that humans have inhabited our planet. For dinosaurs, you could in theory take a chicken and try to give it a long tail or teeth! Really though, would it be a dinosaur, if it was reverse engineered, and not grown from actual DNA? Would that not just be a really scary chicken, rather than a dinosaur clone?
Scientists have successfully created a clone of certain animals already, but that’s because they already had the DNA of the animal (again, not a dinosaur clone 😞), and they are working on reverse engineering the genetic make-up of extinct species that we already know could survive living now with care and protection. Without finding perfectly preserved, complete dinosaur DNA, the chances of cloning a real dinosaur is basically impossible. Even if it was possible to clone a dinosaur, we’ve seen how that movie ends! Like Dr. Malcolm says, “Just because you can, doesn’t mean that you should.”
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