Scientists Suggest That While Technically Possible, Evolution Probably Won’t Resurrect The Dinosaurs

The oldest DNA ever recovered from a fossil is one-million-years-old, and as dinosaurs went extinct 66 million years ago, scientists would need much older DNA than has ever been found to clone dinosaurs.

Members of the public walk walk around 'Dippy' the Diplodocus at Natural History Museum on January 4, 2017 in London, England.
Dan Kitwood / Getty Images

The oldest DNA ever recovered from a fossil is one-million-years-old, and as dinosaurs went extinct 66 million years ago, scientists would need much older DNA than has ever been found to clone dinosaurs.

The 1993 film Jurassic Park made millions of people around the world wonder whether it was really and truly possible to bring back dinosaurs through natural evolutionary processes or even by resurrecting them through cloning. However, scientists have since suggested that while dinosaurs evolving once again is technically possible, it probably won’t be happening.

According to Live Science, Susie Maidment, a vertebrate paleontologist at London’s Natural History Museum, has dispelled the idea that a mosquito trapped in amber for millions and millions of years could really create a new generation of dinosaurs, with or without a tourist park.

Maidment explained that even now scientists have recovered flies and mosquitos that existed at the same time as dinosaurs, and while amber may preserve these, the soft tissues of the insects are not saved within the amber.

“We do have mosquitos and biting flies from the time of the dinosaurs, and they do preserve in amber. But when amber preserves things, it tends to preserve the husk, not the soft tissues. So, you don’t get blood preserved inside mosquitos in amber.”

While scientists have actually discovered both collagen and blood vessels hidden in ancient dinosaur fossils, there is no DNA left inside of them, which means that cloning would be an impossibility. DNA is known to break down rapidly when exposed to enough water and sunlight, and so far the oldest DNA that has been successfully preserved in a fossil is just one million years old.

Despite how old this may seem to many people when you consider that dinosaurs drew their final breath 66 million years ago – long after their heyday – DNA that is one-million-years-old is relatively modern in the grand scheme of things.

As Maidment noted, “Although we have what appears to be blood from mosquitos up to 50 million years old, we haven’t found DNA, and in order to reconstruct something, we need DNA.”

Jamal Nasir, who is a geneticist at the University of Northampton, explained that because evolution is so apparently random, anything is possible, even with dinosaurs, and that evolution is a process that doesn’t always need to move forward. Because evolution is a process that can move in a myriad of different directions, dinosaurs could technically evolve again as the building blocks of these creatures still exists. However, it is still very unlikely to happen.

Nasir also suggested that dinosaurs couldn’t just appear on the scene without the right sort of environment and that if this is something that ever did occur again, it may come about through human catastrophes like viral pandemics, which is something that doesn’t sound very nice.

Maidment has pointed out that while the idea of cloning dinosaurs or seeing them evolve again may seem appealing, dinosaurs are still present and very much with us today, which we should remind ourselves of whenever we see a flying bird.

“Dinosaurs are still with us. They say dinosaurs went extinct, but only the non-avian dinosaurs went extinct. Birds are dinosaurs, and birds are still evolving, so we will certainly see new species of birds evolving — and those will be new species of dinosaur.”

Scientists also point to the fact that even if dinosaurs could be cloned or would suddenly evolve again tomorrow, the world they existed in 66 million years ago is wildly different from the world we live in today, and the conditions are simply not right on Earth at the present time for dinosaurs to come back.