'British scientists clone dinosaur'? They haven't, they won't, and they never will - here's why

Hoax story has recycled Jurassic Park's science to cause a stir online

An extraordinary story of the world’s first cloned dinosaur has got a lot of traction on Twitter and inspired alarmist comparisons to Jurassic Park. It is also, not unexpectedly, a complete fake. 

The article claims that scientists at Liverpool’s John Moores University are currently incubating a baby Apotosaurus nicknamed "Spot" after retrieving the creature’s DNA from a fossil and injecting it into the womb of an ostrich.

"Those in the scientific community say the dinosaur cloning – the first ever of its kind – is a milestone for genetic engineering," reads the article from news-hound.org, a site that has previously fooled the internet with its story about a "Shipwrecked British woman saved by Google Earth".

The hoax even includes a picture of the supposed baby dinosaur (it’s actually a very young baby kangaroo) as well as fabricated quotations from scientists at the university, one of which just happens to share the same name as the survivor in the fake shipwreck story. From the article:

"I used to think this kind of thing could only happen in the movies," said Dr. Gemma Sheridan, a LJMU chemistry professor. "But we’re making it happen right here in our lab. It’s astounding."

Interestingly, there is actually a real Gemma Sheridan, but she is neither a shipwreck survivor nor a chemistry professor. Instead, she happens to just be a friend of the owners of the site, who apparently keep on using her name as a joke (for which she attracts a fair bit of attention on Twitter).

The article has caused a stir on social media, with users sharing the story and commenting that "this is not going to end well". There are also the expected comparisons to Jurassic Park – best seen as a testament to the that-just-sounds-plausible-enough science at the heart of the story.

In the film, scientists clone dinosaurs by extracting dinosaur blood (and DNA) from mosquitoes fossilised in amber. Unfortunately, this method of bringing back to life ancient ‘ thunder lizards’ was thoroughly debunked in September last year, when a group of scientist put "the final nail in the Jurassic Park coffin".

The researchers from Manchester University attempted to extract DNA from insects preserved in copal (an intermediate stage between tree resin and amber) that ranged in age from 60 to 10,600 years old. Using the most advanced extraction methods available (which have previously been successful in retrieving DNA from other types of preserved life forms) they were completely unable to reclaim any DNA – ancient or otherwise.

This is simply because DNA molecules just aren’t that tough. They have a half-life of only about 521 years and various environmental conditions – including temperature, microbes, and oxygenation – will only speed up the process of degradation. And although the oldest authentic DNA sequence is thought to be about half a million years old, this is still 65 million years too young to have anything to do with dinosaurs.

For fans of Jurassic Park, this is probably mixed news - dinosaurs going on a rampage on a remote island certainly sounds pretty terrifying but it would also be a sci-fi dream come true. If you're still determined to get some face time with a Velociraptor then forget about the DNA and try building a time machine instead.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Arts and Entertainment
Under the skin: Sarah Kane in May 1998
theatreThe story behind a new season of Sarah Kane plays
Arts and Entertainment
Preening: Johnny Depp in 'Mortdecai'
filmMortdecai becomes actor's fifth consecutive box office bomb
Sport
Bradford City's reward for their memorable win over Chelsea is a trip to face either Sunderland or Fulham (Getty)
football
News
Lars Andersen took up archery in his mid thirties
video
Voices
Focus E15 Mothers led a protest to highlight the lack of affordable housing in London
voicesLondon’s housing crisis amounts to an abuse of human rights, says Grace Dent
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Operations & Logistics Manager

£38000 - £42000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the UK's best performing...

Recruitment Genius: GeoDatabase Specialist - Hazard Modelling

£35000 - £43000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our award-winning client is one...

Recruitment Genius: Compressed Air Pipework Installation Engineer

£15000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading provider of Atlas ...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Coordinator - Pallet Network

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Opportunity to join established...

Day In a Page

Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project