|Dr. Steve (top) is among the scientists trying new techniques for cloning extinct marine creatures such as this mosasaur (bottom)|
How exactly have scientists been cloning dinosaurs? Well, it is done in several different ways, but Jurassic Park's technique was to extract DNA from mosquitoes that bit the dinosaur's blood when alive. The mosquitoes eventually landed on the trunk of a tree and got stuck in the sap. After a long time, the tree sap would get hard and become fossilized, just like a dinosaur bone, preserving the mosquitoes inside. Using sophisticated techniques, they extract the preserved blood and they have dinosaur DNA! Then, they insert the DNA into the embryos of alligator eggs (which were from a farm, not a wild nest by the way) and they hatch a baby dinosaur. Ever since Jurassic Park closed due to escaping carnivores, scientists have been cloning these legendary beasts. The technique I mentioned works well for dinosaurs, but lately, scientists have turned their interests to other creatures – marine reptiles! And due to certain “problems” scientists come across when trying to clone them, they are trying new and exciting techniques. To get the latest scoop, my junior photographer, Daniel P. Smithwater and I went to Dr. Steve Stevenson, the chief geneticist at AAI, also known as Animal Adventures Institute. He used to work with the company that was trying to create Jurassic Park, InGen, before the park closed down and he happily told us what's new in the cloning world. When asked what's up with cloning sea reptiles, he responded saying, “As you know, scientists have been interested in cloning dinosaurs since Jurassic Park. But recently, we've turned our attention to other types of animals – marine reptiles. 'What's the problem?' you ask? When cloning dinosaurs, we get our DNA used in cloning from mosquitoes trapped in amber right? Well, have you ever seen mosquitoes go swimming and suck the blood of sea creatures underwater?” Dr. Steve explained that contrary to popular belief, dinosaurs only lived on land. The flying and swimming “dinosaur-like” reptiles, that God created on the Fifth Day of the week to create everything, were not dinosaurs (that's right! Pterosaurs, plesiosaurs, mosasaurs, pliosaurs and ichthyosaurs aren't dinosaurs). So since mosquitoes can't swim, getting DNA from extinct marine reptiles proved tricky. “When Jurassic Park was preparing to open (which of course it never did),” says Dr. Steve, “we managed to clone some marine reptiles called mosasaurs (these creatures were sort of like monitor lizards with flippers that could grow to lengths of over 50 ft.) through the same process that we cloned dinosaurs, but it was tricky, since mosquitoes that bit marine reptiles are rare in amber.” The next obvious question I asked Dr. Steve was how the mosquito even bit the marine reptile in the first place. Dr. Steve is quoted for saying, “All we know is that a few did. I have a theory though: say a mosasaur washed up on a beach or perhaps swam in a swamp that was connected to the ocean and died. If part of the mosasaur's body is above water, a mosquito could suck blood, but this would be rare. This is why we've had trouble cloning marine reptiles.” Here at AAI, Dr. Steve has managed to clone a few marine reptiles, but through a different process. “The process through which we cloned extinct marine reptiles for Animal Adventures Institute was also tricky, but a little bit easier than the Jurassic Park technique. Instead of extracting it from mosquitoes, we got it straight from unfossilized sea reptile bones that have been uncovered by our dig team led by Dr. Samuel Adamson and his wife, Indiana. In fact, since Jurassic Park closed, I think we're the only science team in the world that has succeeded in cloning marine reptiles.” However, new science tricks may prove cloning extinct reptiles much easier, as Dr. Steve explains. “You see, my assistant, Oliver Oviraptor (yes, he's a dinosaur), suggested that perhaps other animals bit extinct marine creatures. So I did some research and, to my amazement, I learned that there was such a creature – marine leech-like parasites!” Dr. Steve also told me that these leech-like parasites have been found encased in, not amber, but in ice! You see, after the Flood of Noah's time, the Ice Age began and ice caps appeared at the poles. These leech-like parasites would suck the blood of marine reptiles and if the marine reptile was in water too cold for the parasite, the parasite would drop off and get frozen in the water, where it was turned to ice. “And these parasites are now being uncovered in ice packs near both the North and South Pole.” He also began to say that these samples are still under study, so whether they contain enough DNA to clone something is still a mystery. But hopefully, this will open a whole new world when it comes to cloning. In closing, I asked Dr. Steve if we should be expecting “Cretaceous Sea World Adventure Park” anytime soon, and today, I'll close with his response. “Don't give your hopes up. We're still studying these amazing parasites that once bit marine reptiles. But with a little hope, and a lot of providence, a 'Sea World' version of Jurassic Park might be possible . . . and if we do, let's hope they don't cause havoc!
Written by: Mr. Smiley
Photographer: Daniel P. Smithwater
Edited by: Christian Ryan and Joy Hammond
Next Issue: The Boa Constrictor Killing Method