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Re: Brontosaurus, Jurassic Park



>The bizarre chimerae the article advocates cannot be considered dinosaurs.

Brings to mind Carroll's White Knight and his discussion of names.
Recall:

>>    True, it would not _be_ a brontosaur - it would be loaded with big-
>>    mammal DNA, would have distinctly elephantine habits and behaviour,

in your words, yes, a "bizarre chimerae".  But some of us _like_
bizarre chimerae, and will take a bizarre chimera if we can't get
real dinosaurs.

But the primary point is that such an approach addresses what really
appears to me to be the main objection to "cloning" dinosaurs from
DNA: we can't "boot" the DNA.  Oh, it will reproduce.  But it can't,
as yet, be "initialized" so that the appropriate genes will activate
and deactivate at the appropriate generations to create a living dino-
saur.  We might someday know how to do this with _living_ creatures,
and that may or may _not_ help with dinosaurs.  Even if we had 100%
of the DNA of some given species, and even if we knew how to "start"
the DNA, there is no obvious way to build an egg - or to live-bear
the critter, cows can put up with all kinds of aliens in their uterii,
but I doubt they could bear a brachiosaur.

But we know _today_ how to insert genes into a line and have them breed
true.  The idea is to create a living testbed for what gene sequences we
_can_ recover from fossils and amber or whatever, _plus_ those we can
reconstruct ourselves based on analysis of physical remains, as well as
those we can reasonably reconstruct using bits of DNA from the dinosaurs
living descendants.  You can use this approach, with not all that much
more than today's technology, to make use of _any_ DNA we can recover,
to create - yes - a "bizarre chimera", one that would be refined and
upgraded as each new piece of DNA was identified.  I can just imagine
the tour guide: "Bessie, here, is a triceratops version 18.9.21.  Notice
that she lacks an udder since we replaced the prolobosinator gene
with the pachycephalosaur equivalent recovered by Dr. Horner back in
'97".

The theoretical final result, _if_ - and, boy, it's a BIG 'if' - we can
recover 100% of the DNA, _is_ a real dinosaur, legitimately claiming descent
from the prehistoric prototypes and lacking any of the mammal or other
modern DNA we used to "bootstrap" the process.  And if we do _not_
reach 100%, our "bizarre chimera" _still_ has something to offer us,
the ability to observe at least _some_ dinosaur DNA "on the hoof",
as it were.  And surely that is worth something, even if the endo-
thermic reactions or red blood cells aren't just right. A half a
dinosaur is surely better than none at all, isn't it?

And to put it in more mercenary terms, just 1% of the gate to see
even a fake brontosaurus would pay for a _lot_ of digging, methinks.

Larry Smith
larrys@alpha.zk3.dec.com