Will scientists ever be able to resurrect the dinosaur? According to Jack Horner, professor of palaeontology at Montana State University, the answer is an unequivocal yes. "Of course we can bring them back to life. Their ancestral DNA is still present. The science is there. I don’t think there are any barriers, other than the philosophical," says Horner. In the 1990s, scientists discovered dinosaurs in China buried in a fine ash. They were preserved in remarkable detail and bird-like features, including claws and feathers, were recognizable. Horner believes that a modern bird’s DNA contains a genetic memory that could be ‘switched on’ again, resurrecting long-dormant dinosaur traits. To make such a creature, he would start with the genome (the whole hereditary information encoded in the DNA) of an emu.
"Emus have all the features we need in order to make a Velociraptor-sized dinosaur," he says. "If I were to make a dinosaur, that is where I’d start." Far-fetched as this sounds, his work is supported by other leading academics. Sean Carroll, a geneticist at the University of Wisconsin, says: "The inventory of genes in a bird would be very similar to the inventory of genes in a dinosaur. It is differences in the decision-making that takes during development that make the difference between a chicken and a tyrannosaurus." The relevant DNA to turn back the clock could be manufactured and implanted into an emu egg, for instance, to trigger dormant genes.
Scientists believe that in a hundred years or so, geneticists could retro-engineer animals that appear identical to Mesozoic dinosaurs.
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