On Friday, September 25, The Washington Post printed a story on Page A3 entitled +quot;Ent
On Friday, September 25, _The Washington Post_ printed a story on Page A3
entitled "Entombed in Amber, Ancient DNA Hints of 'Jurassic Park'" under
the byline of Boyce Rensberger, the staff writer who produces many of the
"Science Notebook" pieces. Rather than type in the entire article, I'll
present the salient points.
Michael Crichton, author of _Jurassic Park_, got some of his ideas back
in the 1980s from the Extinct DNA Study Group, according to George Poiner
of UC Berkeley who organized the group in 1980. Crichton had heard about
them, and they began sending him papers and newsletters.
In the September 25 issue of _Science_ four researchers from the American
Museum of Natural History report findings from a termite embedded in amber
that are similar to those reported previously by Poinar, et al., in regard
to bee DNA. The termite dated from 25-30 million years ago. The researchers
are Rob DeSalle, John Gatesy, Ward Wheeler, and David Grimaldi. [Sorry
not to have a full reference, but my library did not have the latest issue
of _Science_ as of yesterday.]
The AMNH work addresses the question of how termites are related to cock-
roaches. The findings suggest that the two evolved from a common ancestor
instead of termites being descended from a branch of the roaches.
Regarding _Jurassic Park_, Poinar is quoted as saying it "is not so far away.
It's theoretically possible that you could get dinosaur DNA from them [biting
midges from the Cretaceous containing dinosaur blood]." However, "there
would be enormous technical problems recreating a whole dinosaur." The
problems are damage to the ancient DNA [Crichton's characters get around
this by splicing in modern DNA] and the fact that this hasn't even been
done for an extant species with undamaged DNA.
E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank