DNA dating study kills off ‘Jurassic Park’

From ABC Science Online, News in Science, 10 October:

Reconstructing dinosaurs from ancient DNA has been dealt a blow with a new study finding genetic material can only last one million years.

An international team of researchers reached the finding after analysing DNA extracted from bones of the extinct New Zealand moa. They found that while short fragments of DNA could possibly survive up to one million years, sequences of 30 base pairs or more would only have a ‘half-life’ of around 158,000 years under certain conditions.

Lead author Dr Morten Allentoft from Murdoch University’s Ancient DNA lab in Perth, says their results contradict earlier studies which claimed to have extracted DNA fragments several hundred base pairs long from dinosaur bones and preserved insects – claims which underpinned the storyline of the 1993 movie Jurassic Park.

“What we show here with the decay rate of DNA is that this is never going to be possible,” says Allentoft.

“It may be that you can have extremely short fragments of DNA, only a few base pairs that persist for maybe a million years, maybe even longer.”

Allentoff says the earlier findings may have been due to contamination with human DNA. Read more here.

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