'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
News
One father who couldn't get One Direction tickets for his daughters phoned in a fake bomb threat and served eight months in a federal prison
people... (and one very unlucky giraffe)
Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film
Arts and Entertainment
Brendan O'Carroll as Agnes Brown in the 2014 Mrs Brown's Boys Christmas special
tvCould Mrs Brown's Boys have taken lead for second year?
News
news
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
Members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community walk with a rainbow flag during a rally in July
news
News
i100
Sport
Alexis Sanchez missed a penalty before scoring the opening goal with a header at the back post
footballLive! Sanchez makes up for penalty miss to put Arsenal ahead
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Arts and Entertainment
Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz in Tim Burton's Big Eyes
film reviewThis is Tim Burton’s most intimate and subtle film for a decade
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Jack O'Connell stars as Louis Zamperini in Angelina Jolie's Unbroken
film review... even if Jack O'Connell is excellent
Arts and Entertainment
Madonna is not in Twitter's good books after describing her album leak as 'artistic rape and terrorism'
music14 more 'Rebel Heart' tracks leaked including Pharrell Williams collaboration
Sport
Rooney celebrates with striker-partner Radamel Falcao after the pair combine to put United ahead
footballManchester United vs Newcastle match report
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

Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executive- City of London, Old Street

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...

Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketing Controller (Financial Services)

£70000 - £75000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketi...

Day In a Page

A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all