If you’ve ever wondered whether Jurassic Park can ever become a reality, rest assured: it can’t. According to a new study, the half-life of DNA is less than a thousand years old, so finding a perfectly preserved DNA sample that’s millions of years old is, by probabilistic measures, quite negligible.
Palaeogeneticists led by Morten Allentoft at the University of Copenhagen and Michael Bunce at Murdoch University in Perth, Australia, examined 158 DNA-containing leg bones belonging to three species of extinct giant birds called moa. The bones, which were between 600 and 8,000 years old, had been recovered from three sites within 5 kilometres of each other, with nearly identical preservation conditions including a temperature of 13.1 ºC. The findings are published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B.
By comparing the specimens’ ages and degrees of DNA degradation, the researchers calculated that DNA has a half-life of 521 years. That means that after 521 years, half of the bonds between nucleotides in the backbone of a sample would have broken; after another 521 years half of the remaining bonds would have gone; and so on.
You can read more here.