Dino DNA?

The inimitable Dr. Mary Schweitzer has done it again. In a paper recently published in the peer-reviewed journal National Science Review, Dr. Schweitzer, alongside a team of researchers from various places across the world, discovered intact DNA in a Hadrosaur bone. The discovery, sure to evoke controversy across the mainstream scientific community, has profound implications for the origins debate.

For those who may not have heard of her, Dr. Mary Schweitzer has been finding things that are inconvenient for the predominant theory for a while now. She made her mark when she discovered soft tissue in dinosaur bones. It was a find she took tremendous flack for discovering, but one that had been repeatedly confirmed since then. Now she has assisted with discovering dinosaur DNA in dinosaur bones.

In this particular study, the researchers looked at disarticulated remains of some hatchling Hadrosaurs. Numerous types of cartilage were detected. In the growth plate, it was possible to tell cartilage from the bone. More importantly, mitosis could be observed going on, preserved in time. For those who do not know, mitosis is the process that produces a new cell. It does this by duplicating the DNA of a cell then splitting the cell in half. In the process of splitting, it pulls the duplicated DNA apart. Thus catching a cell in the middle of mitosis means catching it with its DNA obvious under the microscope.

Estimates vary on just how long DNA can last without being completely destroyed.  A 2012 study suggested a maximum of 6.8 million years to remain readable, but suggested a million years was the maximum practical time period that could be expected. The oldest previously found was 700,000 years old. These fossil bones, while not explicitly dated in the paper, were specified as being upper Cretaceous. This would put them in the 70-65 million-year-old range according to their timeline.  This is orders of magnitude longer than DNA is supposed to last.  That raises all manner of problems for evolution, something the researchers grasped very clearly.

The researchers were meticulous in their research. They tested the postulated DNA using special enzymes that bind only to DNA.  They also only show up when the cell containing the DNA is dead, meaning they will not show up if they bind to a living contaminant such as a microbe. This rules out the possibility that this DNA is a contaminant, as had been postulated with the soft tissue. In fact, the researchers were able to determine that the DNA was still double-stranded, and was still at least six base pairs long.  In other words, there is still the information for at least two amino acids on that strand.

Never the less, the researchers are careful to avoid calling this dinosaur DNA and rightly so.  It could be contaminant DNA, though this seems incredibly unlikely given it was found enclosed within a cellular membrane. However, until DNA is found and can be sequenced in any length, it cannot be confirmed that it is dinosaur DNA. This short of a DNA sequence also means that any ideas of a Jurrasic Park scenario have to be put on the backburner. We are a far cry from doing anything that massive or absurd as yet, though, this is a step in that direction.

To try to preserve their dogma, the researchers propose that the DNA was condensed when it was preserved. In order to understand what this means, it is important to understand what DNA condensation is. When DNA is condensed, it is drawn into the nucleus and tightly compacted.  This is the case during much of mitosis, the process believed to have been occurring in the cells the researchers observed.  Exactly how DNA condensation is supposed to preserve DNA for millions of years is unclear and the researchers admit a need for more research. They also propose crosslinking, as they proposed with other soft tissue.  This option falls flat as well upon closer examination, which we cover in more detail elsewhere.

Creationists should rejoice that, despite the damage, it does to evolution, Dr. Schweitzer and her colleagues continue to research soft tissue.  Despite her theistic evolutionary beliefs, Dr. Schweitzer has done us an incredible service in discovering soft tissue in dinosaurs. The creation science community probably owes her a thank you note for all the good work she has done for us.



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