Wired Science notes this week that a recent study of the bones of extinct giant birds has offered some new, very reassuring evidence that Jurassic Park will never ever, ever happen. Phew.
The study, published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B by scientists from the universities of Perth and Copenhagen, offers an estimate of the average half-life of DNA molecules. Wired UK's Ian Steadman writes that according to the study of 158 samples of moa bones between 500 and 6,000 years old, "DNA appears to have a half-life of around 521 years."
According to Steadman the result is "caveated" by the fact that many factors, like acidity, health, temperature, and humidity, can influence decay rates. "However, it does provide a baseline against which to assess the viability of obtaining DNA samples from future finds," he writes. "If there is a lot of DNA, preserved in absolutely ideal conditions, then it might hang around for several thousand years."
That means the moa, if well-preserved, is potentially in for future cloning. Dinosaurs — and other DNA-based animals that checked out 65 million years back — appear to be out. Steadman nominates the woolly mammoth as another contender. "We may even be able to reintroduce them into the wild."