Is Real Life Jurassic Park Five Years Away?
Technology Articles 12/5/11
By: Chris Capps
Outspoken scientists in the field of genetic research have long been interested in the idea of bringing back previously extinct species to allow them to once again walk the Earth. And to their credit they have been able to uncover quite a bit in the way of scientific evidence suggesting it will not only be possible, but feasible in a very real way. And now there is a new projected timeline suggesting we may have reached the level where a sort of park very similar to Michael Crichton's Jurassic Park may be possible within the next five years. Are we ready for it?
The claim comes close on the heels of the recovery of some of the most well preserved mammoth bone marrow ever by scientists. The discovery was a call to arms that quickly assembled scientists from multiple countries including Russia and Japan. After the discovery, analysis of the bone marrow began by Semyon Grigoriey of the Sakha Republic Mammoth Museum. The sample itself was hidden deep within the permafrost of Siberia where it has remained preserved since the first day the mammoth fell. The added benefit of the creature's long time preservation has been one of the problems in the past when analyzing Mammoth bone marrow. Unlike the other samples discovered this one has been preserved without break for some ten thousand years. The permafrost in Siberia appears to be the ideal location for this sort of preservation as cold winds buffet the mountain ranges from the west drawn down from the arctic circle even in times of unusually high global warmth.
Just like in Crichton's "Jurassic Park," however, there are a few problems with even the most perfectly preserved DNA. For example, the wooly mammoth has a few holes in the code which must be supplemented with modern day elephant DNA where it seems to fit. Previously, the nuclei containing the necessary DNA have been beyond the grasp of explorers and researchers - a fact that seemed to be frozen in time and preserved until eventually being shattered like so much ice.
So the question remains the same as it was in the film and book series. Is it a good idea for humans to take this technology and develop their own species that closely mimics in behavior and appearance those which had their time on Earth so long ago? We may or may not be able to grasp the full potential of what bringing mammoths back to life could do to our planet's ecosystem, but if these creatures were brought back, they would likely be placed in parks rather than allowed to roam free alongside the elephant species that did survive all this time.
But what about dinosaurs? Could we bring back the legendary Tyrannosaurus Rex? What about the cunning raptors that terrorized park attendees in the film? We may have to wait some time before it is feasible to bring back a few of the older species from the Jurassic and Cretaceous eras. Whereas the wooly mammoth was alive some 10,000 years ago, the Tyrannosaurus walked the earth an estimated 65 million years ago - and no one knows if samples of its DNA still exist fully preserved.
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