Could a mosquito fossil engorged with blood be the key to making the dinosaur cloning science of Jurassic Park possible?
As previously reported by The Inquisitr, giant mutant mosquitoes engineered by scientists have been released into Florida.
Scientists are already saying the discovery of this mosquito fossil is extremely rare because it was preserved in shale rock instead of fossilized tree resin, or amber. While it’s already rare to find a mosquito preserved in this fashion, it’s even more rare because the sample is filled with blood, making the possibilities for this discovery even more exciting.
Scientists are already analyzing the mosquito fossil with a newer technique called time-of-flight secondary ion mass spectrometry, which bombards the sample with heavy metals like bismuth in order to vaporize the chemicals inside for analysis. This is an improvement on older techniques which would have required destroying a portion of the mosquito fossil.
The movie series Jurassic Park has been inspiring scientists for years to try and clone dinosaurs from fragments of DNA that might be recovered from samples such as the recently discovered mosquito fossil. While scientists are not sure what animal the blood from the mosquito fossil derives from, since it resembles so many other species, they are excited because this discovery shows that complex organic molecules can be preserved.
Besides the mosquito fossil, this hypothesis has been the subject of debate these past years. Scientists had wrongly assumed dinosaur soft tissue could not be preserved inside fossilized remains so they never bothered looking according to dinosaur paleontologist Thomas Holtz Jr.:
“The reason it hasn’t been discovered before is no right-thinking paleontologist would do what Mary did with her specimens. We don’t go to all this effort to dig this stuff out of the ground to then destroy it in acid. It’s great science.”
But, now that they know to look, scientists are finding soft tissue, blood, and blood vessels inside even T-Rex skeletons. The reason because this is so controversial is because it was assumed soft tissue could not survive 65 million years even under the best preservation conditions.
Unfortunately, while the dinosaur soft tissue and the blood samples from the mosquito fossil were preserved, the DNA inside has been scrambled by time. DNA is essentially an extremely complex biological software code that also performs physical functions. It’s as if the gears of a clock were to also encode information about itself. So, while a single strand of DNA can hold more information than all the world’s computers put together, it’s also susceptible to falling apart and becoming unreadable.
Using other preserved samples besides dinosaurs and mosquito fossils, scientists were able to estimate the half-life of DNA is 521 years. Without getting technical, this means half of the chemical bonds holding DNA together fall apart within 521 years and then another half are gone by 1,042 years, and so on. But that’s actually very stable compared to human-made technology. For example, burned CDs have a shelf life of around five years.
The scientists who conducted this study claim these results mean that dinosaur DNA should be impossible to retrieve since nothing should remain of the DNA information after 6.8 million years even under the best conditions for preservation. Dinosaurs like the T-Rex are claimed to be at least 65 million years old. To make matters worse, using the latest techniques other scientists could not retrieve DNA information less than 10,000 years old.
So, long story short, Jurassic Park-like dinosaur cloning with this blood-engorged mosquito fossil should be impossible. But let’s just hope they don’t stop looking just because that’s assumed to be the case.
What do you think of the discovery of the mosquito fossil filled with blood?