Mystery of DNA decay unravelled

10th October, 2012

Dr Mike Bunce with a Moa BoneA new study is finally laying to rest the debate over whether DNA from the age of the dinosaurs could survive to the present day.

Scientists at Murdoch University, Perth, Australia led a study which shows the rate of DNA degradation and calculates that all bonds in a DNA strand preserved at the ideal temperature of minus five degrees centigrade would be completely destroyed in bone after approximately 6.8 million years.

This figure is incompatible with the idea of finding intact DNA in an 80 million year old dinosaur remnant, as was famously alluded to in the Steven Spielberg film Jurassic Park.

Dr Mike Bunce and Dr Morten Allentoft from Murdoch University’s Ancient DNA lab came to their conclusions after studying 158 fossilised leg bones belonging to three species of the moa, an extinct group of birds that once roamed New Zealand.

The moa bones were excavated from three adjacent sites within a 5km radius in North Canterbury, South Island, New Zealand.

The research is published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B journal, the full press release is below:

Mystery of DNA Decay Unravelled