The new "Jurassic Park" movie, "Jurassic World," opens today, and spoiler alert: It's about dinosaurs brought back to life by scientists. Here's the trailer if you haven't seen it:
It looks very exciting, but it still raises the same question as the first Jurassic Park: Can scientists really bring back dinosaurs?
The answer, not surprisingly, is "no." Even in a perfectly preserved state, DNA only lasts 6.8 million years. However, that doesn't mean we can't bring back other extinct creatures, and scientists are working on it right now.
Some of the research projects happening right now are trying to bring back the wooly mammoth (extinct for 40,000 years), the Pyrenean ibex (extinct for 15 years), the northern and southern gastric brooding frogs (extinct for 30 years) and the passenger pigeon (extinct for 100 years).
To recreate these animals, scientists must either have perfectly preserved DNA samples, as in the case of the ibex, or rebuild the animal's DNA from fragments, as in the case of the passenger pigeon and mammoth. The recreation process is helped if there's a cousin of the animal still around with similar DNA, like the band-tailed pigeon.
Once the DNA is ready to go, scientists put it into an egg and implant it in a similar animal. The idea is good, but it hasn't met with full success so far.
A Pyrenean ibex was born back in 2003, but died after 10 minutes. The gastric brooding frogs have yet to have a successful birth because DNA from the donor frog keeps winding up in the egg along with the brooding frog DNA. Still, they're getting closer to success every year.
Critics of these practices say that scientists who are trying to bring back animals are wasting time and energy that could go toward saving the ones we still have. Proponents of this practice say that these techniques will be useful to keep endangered species around, or bring back species that are critical to their ecosystem.
What do you think about "de-extincting" animals? Let me know the comments.