The trailer for the fourth instalment in the Jurassic Park film franchise recently appeared online to much acclaim and excitement (see below). Jurassic World sees a return to the fictional island of Isla Nublar, which just happens to contain a fully functioning dinosaur theme park. The story is founded upon the idea that ancient DNA can be extracted from fossils, then cloned in labs to create living and breathing dinosaurs. Now, we know that our readers are an inquisitive bunch and are bound to be thinking, is there any way this could happen in real life?
To find out, we got in touch with dinosaur expert, Mike Benton, Professor of Vertebrate Palaeontology at the University of Bristol, and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, to ask how plausible the idea is, either now or in future.
His answer may be a disappointment or a relief, depending on your view: ‘despite early high hopes, and several papers in the 1990s, the suggestion that DNA can survive for so long, undamaged, is now known to be false. Even under the most exceptional of conditions, such as freezing in ice or encapsulation in amber, DNA still breaks up and becomes functionless within tens of thousands of years, maybe 70,000, and certainly cannot survive for millions of years. So, this was the theme of Jurassic Park in 1992, and the plausibility of the core idea is still very low to impossible.’
Being optimists, we like to think there’s still a chance.