Monday, October 22, 2012

Is Jurassic Park Possible? Bringing Back the Dinosaurs

Dinosaur soft tissue found in a fossilized T-Rex leg bone.
Is Jurassic Park really possible?  For nearly twenty years scientists have been telling us that the science behind the movie Jurassic Park is possible in theory, but not really possible in practice.  Why?  No one has ever or would ever be able to find intact dinosaur DNA from ancient fossilized bones, or mosquitoes for that matter.  Oddly though, about the time the movie was coming out, a paleontologist discovered the remains of some organic soft dinosaur tissue in a fossilized dinosaur bone.  How in the world would tissue survive such long periods of time and the fossilization process?  The answer to that question is that no one really knows, but several scientists working independently of each other have been able to verify the presence of dinosaur tissues in fossilized bones.  Organic molecules, including blood cells, have been found and confirmed in these specimens.  These samples open up a totally new area of paleontology and biology that has previously never been open for scientific examination before.  For example, through the examination of protein sequences, specifically collagin, scientists have been able to find that dinosaurs were closely related to birds.   Several different proteins have also been found in these fossils.  These proteins may open doors to understanding dinosaur physiology such as if they were warm or cold blooded.  Currently though, the field of studying ancient tissues from fossilized specimens is still highly controversial.  Even though there has been a lot of evidence to support the existence of this tissue and that it is not simply environmental contamination, the fact remains that it is still nearly unbelievable that organic soft tissues would survive decay over such long periods of time.  Though proteins have been found, no intact DNA has been found.  This makes sense considering protein molecules are significantly more stable than DNA.  So unfortunately, the search for dinosaur DNA and for Jurassic Park continues.  But with this discovery, we will get a lot closer to determining what a real dinosaur was like and what a real Jurassic Park would be like.

http://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/dinosaur.html

In my next post I will discuss another, even more recent dinosaur finding which is even more amazing than this discovery.

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