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Friday, October 12, 2012

Today's Dinosaur News

Posted by on Fri, Oct 12, 2012 at 2:17 PM

  • Photo courtesy of Oregon State University
Researchers at Oregon State University discovered this EPIC SPIDER ATTACK forever preserved in amber!

“This juvenile spider was going to make a meal out of a tiny parasitic wasp, but never quite got to it,” said George Poinar, Jr., a professor emeritus of zoology at Oregon State University and world expert on insects trapped in amber. He outlined the findings in a new publication in the journal Historical Biology.

“This was a male wasp that suddenly found itself trapped in a spider web,” Poinar said. “This was the wasp’s worst nightmare, and it never ended. The wasp was watching the spider just as it was about to be attacked, when tree resin flowed over and captured both of them.”

Sadly, amber can't provide us with DNA. A recent study shows that:

As it turns out, the so-called half-life of DNA—the span of time it takes for half of the molecular bonds in the genetic material to break—is just 521 years.


Next we have this tidbit about discarded concept art for Jurassic Park 4, thanks to Slog-tipper John. (You MUST go look at the concepts!)

Indeed, rumors of a scuttled "genetically altered dinosaur soldier" draft of the fourth Park flick have been circulating for years — and a wonderfully zany batch of JP4 concept art has recently come to our attention. Did we dodge a bullet here? Perhaps.

Here's the thing: I would TOTALLY see a movie with these humanoid dinosaurs in it... That deinonychus-looking dude? Rad. But I do NOT want that movie to be Jurassic Park 4. Honestly, I don't even know what I want JP4 to be, if anything... but I know I don't want it to be dino-man-soldiers.

Coming soon on TDN: Did T-Rex hop? Theropod ambulation considered!

Have a hot dinosaur news tip or question? Send it to


Comments (15) RSS

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Pope Peabrain 1
"One hundred million years." It would bring a pretty penny at auction.
Posted by Pope Peabrain on October 12, 2012 at 2:33 PM · Report this
Will in Seattle 2

As I said on slashdot, the half-life on DNA presupposes the following: room temperature water or some form of liquid water during the process.

Extremely arid environments have different conditions.

Extremely cold environments (oh, say, like maybe an icefall from a glacier or some other event (think mammoths, frozen mud in former lake/sea beds, etc)) have different conditions.

To store DNA we just drop the temp down to -80 C. That's wicked cold, but at those temps the half-life of DNA is much much much longer.

So ... since the amber does not remove the water in the bodies, it may be different, but this half-life of DNA concept presumes conditions that are fairly "wet".

I think T-Rex used those jumping legs he got off of the soldiers who went back in time to hunt him, to get around. Kind of like a really fast kangaroo. With teeth.
Posted by Will in Seattle on October 12, 2012 at 2:37 PM · Report this
Sadly, amber can't provide us with DNA.

I believe a previous publication offers a contradictory claim. Although, now that I think of it, a subsequent report - in Nature, no less - pointed out that Dr. Crichton may have made a mistake and reported the result of accidentally sequencing the DNA of the cloning vector he used.
Posted by Warren Terra on October 12, 2012 at 3:05 PM · Report this
SchmuckyTheCat 4
With more advanced technology in PCR and a very large number of DNA samples, you can still get a statistically valid DNA model of an extinct animal. Maybe. Don't lose hope.
Posted by SchmuckyTheCat on October 12, 2012 at 3:11 PM · Report this
jnmend 5
You are soooo dumb for posting something before reading slashdot.
Posted by jnmend on October 12, 2012 at 3:36 PM · Report this
Mike 6
"Room temperature!" Classic! Fossils spent most of their time in living rooms, paleontologists think, with bedrooms and bathrooms a close second and third, respectively.

The chief hilarity in Will's ridiculous comment is that it demonstrates that the only effect Fnarf's relentless antagonism has had on Will is to make Will adopt Fnarf's condescending, "I can't believe I have to put up with you idiots" attitude. This is indescribably delicious to me.
Posted by Mike on October 12, 2012 at 3:44 PM · Report this
rob! 7
The challenge is certainly great, but it's too early to give up hope (or fear), at least for larger animals from recent times. Using humans as an example, the diploid genome (all the chromosomes in a single nucleus) amounts to about 6.5 picograms of DNA. Just one gram of fresh tissue contains roughly one billion cells, which would yield a maximum of 6.5 milligrams of DNA upon purification, but again, one BILLION copies.

Using the power of advanced sequencing techniques, which (short story) use enzymatic amplification and computer analysis to bridge the somewhat random breaks in individual DNA strands, you can assemble much longer stretches of deduced sequence information. Ultimately, it may be possible to splice long sequences of synthetic derived-sequence DNA into a modern host genome (using African elephant for mammoth, say). Preserved skins from more recently extinct fauna would be a good place to develop techniques, because taxidermied specimens will have been largely protected from natural decay processes and also stored in fairly well-controlled environments (museums).

For older specimens, the particular places they're found (melting glaciers, peat bogs, tar pits, etc.) will determine the quality of DNA through factors such as temperature, acidity, inhibition of enzymatic degradation, etc.
Posted by rob! on October 12, 2012 at 3:50 PM · Report this
Simone 8
This would be good for a SyFy Saturday movie. As long as it is better funded/acted/produced/directed etc. than the average syfy flick.
Posted by Simone on October 12, 2012 at 3:52 PM · Report this
Simone 9
What I mean is ditch everything in that horrible sounding story except for the idea of an human engineered intelligent dinosaur/raptor. I don't know what else to do with the story line. Sorry.
Posted by Simone on October 12, 2012 at 3:59 PM · Report this
Pope Peabrain 10
If you need spider and wasp DNA, there's plenty of it around.
Posted by Pope Peabrain on October 12, 2012 at 4:05 PM · Report this
stirwise 11
The Amber is a fairly good fixative, isn't it? I've been presuming all this time that amber infiltrates the organism it's trapping, the way one would infuse tissue with resin or paraffin for sectioning, only in a water-soluble way (so no need for organic solvents). If the critters stayed "wet," wouldn't they sort of turn into a pile of mush in there, as their cells broke down?
Posted by stirwise on October 12, 2012 at 5:07 PM · Report this
Will in Seattle 12
@6 amber seals off the internal atmosphere, actually. Most successful cloning and DNA sequences have come from places that are either arid (hence not a lot of water) or in frozen mud that has remained frozen or frozen snow/ice that has remained frozen (like mammoths being sequenced and even eaten).

But hey, live in your fantasy world. I'll just sit here in the dark, lighting my flourescent tagged earthworms ...
Posted by Will in Seattle on October 12, 2012 at 5:10 PM · Report this
rob! 13
You're an IT drone working in the general vicinity of biomedical researchers, Will. Stop pretending to be a gene jockey.
Posted by rob! on October 12, 2012 at 5:23 PM · Report this
carriemcc 14
That deinonychus-looking dude has a head like Voldemort. Also, the triceratops with the broken horn makes me a little sad.
Posted by carriemcc on October 12, 2012 at 5:25 PM · Report this
rob! 16
@15, while I appreciate the sentiment, Will's full name has been leaked on Slog before, and as a state employee his title (and salary) can be found in public databases. He is, in fact, an IT drone; he's also a bit Baron Münchhausen and Walter Mitty. We can hope than only the odd hapless intern or new hire ever comes under his direct supervision.
Posted by rob! on October 15, 2012 at 9:56 AM · Report this

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