Despite what happens in the science fiction world of “Jurassic Park”, no dinosaur DNA has yet been found. The reason for this is that DNA is thought to have a half-life of 521 years, which means that, after that much time, half of the bonds between the proteins that make up DNA have broken apart; after another 521 years, another half have gone, and so on. This leaves very little behind after hundreds of thousands of years yet alone the 65m years or so that stand between humanity and dinosaurs. Even so, Dr Schweitzer and Dr Goodwin still wondered if the iron-based preservation process might allow DNA to bypass its typical half-life and last a lot longer.
But in recent years traces of soft tissue, such as blood vessels and bone cells, have been found in some dinosaur fossils. Now researchers have come up with an explanation for how these tissues were preserved for millions of years, which just might make it possible to extract some elements of prehistoric DNA.