Could Evolution Lead to a Return of Dinosaurs?
“Jurassic Park” scenario is not likely, but birds may pose key to appreciating extinct species.
Because of the success of the Jurassic Park franchise, the idea that dinosaurs can be brought back using DNA found in blood stored in a mosquito preserved in amber seems to be on the verge of technological possibility.
The only problem is, the science isn’t remotely there.
Susie Maidment, a vertebrate paleontologist at the Natural History Museum in London, doesn’t agree with the science in Spielberg’s hit 1993 blockbuster. “We do have mosquitoes and biting flies from the time of the dinosaurs, and they do preserve in amber,” Maidment told Live Science. “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.”
The dinosaurs died out 66 million years ago, while the oldest DNA found on record dates back only 1 million years.
“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.” Maidment explained.
That doesn’t mean there aren’t intriguing possibilities. Even though the T. rex went extinct tens of millions of years ago, Jamal Nasir, a geneticist in the UK at the University of Northampton, says that evolution isn’t planned and is ever changing.
“Evolution is largely stochastic and evolution doesn’t necessarily have to go in a forward direction; it could have multiple directions. I would argue that going back to dinosaurs is more likely to happen in reverse, because the building blocks are already there.”
Researchers are quick to point out that we still do have animals much like the dinosaurs living among us today — birds.
“Dinosaurs are still with us,” Maidment reveals. “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.”