'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
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
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

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitm...

Recruitment Genius: Factory Operatives

£7 - £8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This high quality thread manufacturer ba...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Recruitment Consultant / Account Manager - Surrey / SW London

£40000 per annum + realistic targets: Ashdown Group: A thriving recruitment co...

Day In a Page

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003