Jurassic Park Dinosaursby Terrence M. Allen, May 3, 2010
Revised November 30, 2010 for clarification, and updates
In answer to the question brought forward by Michael Crichton's Jurassic Park, "Can dinosaurs be cloned from DNA found in the blood of mosquitoes trapped in amber which fossilized millions of years ago?"
Answer: Scientists have retrieved DNA from termites embedded in amber; but unfortunately, they don't believe we could clone whole dinosaurs from the DNA of blood-filled mosquitoes. Sorry Michael Crichton. [Research Note from "The Planet of Life".]
Fact: There has only ever been one confirmed and uncontested mosquito specimen (Paleoculices minutus ca. 75 million years old) found and described in Canadian amber from the Mesozoic Era, Cretaceous Period -- the time when dinosaurs ruled the Earth [Dr. G.O. Poiner, Jr.]. The chances of it having fed upon a dinosaur and any blood in its digestive tract having been preserved in order to extract viable DNA is nil.
A very small number of specimens of mosquitoes have actually been found in more recent amber and copal, amber which formed millions of years after the extinction of dinosaurs (65 million years ago). It is unlikely that a blood-filled female mosquito would have become trapped in resin and entombed in amber, as after feeding she would have more likely flown off to an aquatic source in which to lay her eggs; i.e. a stagnant pond (or lake), a salt marsh, a pool or puddle of water, a tree hole, or a pitcher plant, or even an epiphytic tank bromeliad filled with water. Even if she was preserved in amber along with her preserved protein-rich blood meal, he digestive tract would have the blood of a mammal, bird, reptile, or amphibian, or even a turtle... not a dinosaur!
Terrance M Allen
Retired Entomologist, California State Dept. Food & Agriculture
Certified Technician in Mosquito Control, Los Angeles County, State of California, Department of Health
Arachnologist, Practicing Paleontologist, and Factotum Naturalist
May 3, 2010. Revised November 30, 2010.
Courtesy of Aragon Enterprises, Inc. Partial or Total Reproduction Without Authorization Prohibited.
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