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RE: T.Rex DNA?
>From my files, an article I wrote in November 1994 for New Scientist; it
was published in edited form.
ID: DINOSAUR DNA
Scientists at Brigham Young University in Utah have extracted DNA from
dinosaur bones, but they're a long way from Jurassic Park. The longest
sequence is 174 base pairs, and only 134 pairs are useful for genetic
analysis, says microbiologist Scott Woodward. He extracted DNA from nine
samples during a year of experiments, but the success rate was only 1.8
percent. "If we hadn't gotten one in an early round [of experiments], we
probably would have given up," Woodward admits.
The DNA came from two unfossilized bone pieces from deposits 80 million
years old in a Utah coal mine. Although the bones were not identified,
their size and location makes Woodward "confident they are dinosaur bones."
Woodward's group has analyzed ancient human DNA to study genetic
relationships. They had hoped to clarify how dinosaurs were related to
birds, reptiles, and mammals, but they found the dinosaur DNA sequence was
roughly equidistant from the three other groups. Despite this failure, they
write in the 18 November 1994 Science (Vol. 265, p. 1229), they have shown
DNA can be recovered from well-preserved dinosaur bones. The oldest DNA yet
extracted comes from a weevil trapped in amber 120 million years ago, but
no one expects to find dinosaur fossils entombed in amber.
As I recall, some later work showed that this was _not_ dinoaur DNA. The
person who has extracted protein from dinosaur bone is Mary Schweitzer at
Montana State University; there was an article on her work a year or two
ago in the late, lamented EARTH magazine.
Jeff Hecht Boston Correspondent New Scientist magazine
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