Should Dinosaurs Be "Cloned" from Ancient DNA?

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The year is 2020. You have pursued various careers in science, business, medicine, etc., in the 20 or so years since you graduated from Fullam University. Because of your knowledge about evolution and the dinosaur fossil record, you've been asked to participate in a landmark case that will decide if dinosaurs should be cloned from ancient DNA. Experts with various backgrounds and interests are being assembled to aid in the decision-making process. You and your colleagues will be deciding if extinct species should be brought back to life. You don't have long to decide either--new cloning techniques are being tested around the world and the possibility of resurrecting extinct species may soon be within our grasp. Karelis Securities has offered to sponsor your participation, so you and other Fullam alums have been brought together for a debriefing of the situation.
Here is what you learn:

"Many of you remember from the evolution class you took at Fullam at the beginning of this century that dinosaurs were the dominant forms of life on land for more than 100 million years. Dinosaurs lived on all continents in a wide spectrum of environments from the poles to the tropics. All of the evidence suggests that dinosaurs were successful, complex animals well adapted to conditions on Earth. In fact, many scientists believe that the evolutionary potential of mammals was suppressed throughout the entire Mesozoic because of the supremacy and dominance of the dinosaurs. Only during the breakup of Pangea and after dinosaurs were removed from the scene did mammals undergo an evolutionary radiation to occupy many of the niches left vacant as a result of the Cretaceous/Tertiary mass extinction.

In the decades since the asteroid hypothesis was first proposed by Walter Alvarez and others to explain the sudden demise of the dinosaurs 66 million years ago, scientists have continued to accumulate incontrovertible evidence that the extinction of the dinosaurs was caused by an impacting asteroid from outer space. Substantiation of this theory proves that dinosaurs became extinct NOT because of "bad genes" or a lack of adaptability to natural changes taking place on Earth but because of random bad luck caused by a horrifying extraterrestrial event that wiped out a significant percentage of all Earth's species at the end of the Mesozoic.

With recent advances in molecular biology, we now have at our disposal the technology that will enable us to reverse this unfortunate set of circumstances for the dinosaurs. Sources of dinosaur DNA have been identified at several (secret) sites around the world. Available technology will enable us to extract the fossilized DNA from dinosaur remains, purify it, concentrate or amplify it, and replicate it before implanting the dinosaur DNA into donor eggs from closely related species. Here is our chance to undo the after-effects of the asteroid and return to Earth closely managed members of the dominant life forms that preceded us in time.

Since the evolution of Homo sapiens in the past half million years, we have been accused of propagating a new mass extinction. Many scientists now believe that the so-called "Sixth Extinction" began in the Pleistocene as recently as 50,000 years ago when humans as hunters or disease vectors began a worldwide decimation of megafauna (i.e., large-bodied mammals). Scientists from every continent have expressed their growing concerns that this mass extinction event continues to accelerate today, rivaling the Mesozoic mass extinction in the scope and intensity of species extinctions around the globe. With new cloning techniques, we now have within our grasp the opportunity to reverse the deadly decline of global biodiversity and reinstate to Earth critical members of global ecosystems that existed here only a short time ago, geologically speaking.

Your decision will determine the ultimate fate of the dinosaurs. Should they be doomed to extinction forever or brought back to the Earth they should have inherited? Your job is to carefully evaluate the situation and prepare a report that will enable the judges in this case to reach a final decision. The latest information about scientific research on cloning has been made available to you, including some discussion about human cloning. But remember, this is a case about whether dinosaurs, not humans, should be cloned. Thank you for your participation in an historic case that will have global implications."


You and your colleagues must decide the fate of the dinosaurs before a world audience anxious to know your decision. Before you come to any conclusions, however, you need to understand more about the science of cloning; genetic engineering of ancient DNA; how to develop a dinosaur embryo and successfully raise it to adulthood; animal husbandry issues related to supporting a living, adult dinosaur under post-Mesozoic conditions; safety issues; ethical issues, etc.

To facilitate the court proceedings during class, each of you will serve either as a judge or represent a particular specialty on one of two teams: one team will argue the case in support of dinosaur cloning and the other will present arguments against dinosaur cloning.

For more information related to dinosaurs, visit


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