As regular CFZ-watchers will know, for some time Corinna has been doing a column for Animals & Men and a regular segment on On The Track... particularly about out-of-place birds and rare vagrants. There seem to be more and more bird stories from all over the world hitting the news these days so, to make room for them all - and to give them all equal and worthy coverage - she has set up this new blog to cover all things feathery and Fortean.

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Moa bird bones reveal DNA half-life but Jurassic Park remains fiction

Moa birds disappeared from New Zealand following the arrival of human settlers in the 13th century, but their fossils now provide us with a valuable clues about long-term DNA survival and how DNA decays over thousands of years.

In a paper published today in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, we show that fragments of DNA from these extinct, flightless birds can be used to estimate how DNA decays over time. The findings have implications in choosing where to look for DNA-containing fossils and in forensic casework involving bones.

Sadly, the findings won’t satisfy those people wanting us to talk about dinosaur DNA. When telling someone our day-job involves working with ancient DNA (aDNA), more often than not, the response is: “Ahhhh, you mean like Jurassic Park?”.

Then we explain how resurrecting the dinosaurs is not possible and that the early papers describing isolation of dinosaur DNA were likely based on a combination of contaminating human and chicken DNA.

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