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Should Dinosaurs Be Cloned from Ancient DNA?


Constance M. Soja
Department of Geology
Colgate University
Deborah Huerta
Cooley Science Library
Colgate University


Michael Crichton's Jurassic Park, as a novel and then a blockbuster movie, reawakened the public's fascination with dinosaurs. Although dinosaurs have always been popular, Spielberg's sophisticated cinema computer graphics thrilled human imagination with a wistful longing to see these great life forms. What if we could actually bring them back to life? Technological advances in molecular biology technology in the future might allow us to extract ancient DNA from fossilized dinosaur remains. Could we amplify it, replicate it, and implant it in a host such as an ostrich egg? This tantalizing fantasy has become increasingly closer to reality with recent successful efforts to clone mammals. How close are we to creating Jurassic Park? This case allows students to work cooperatively and explore the scientific, technical, environmental, and ethical issues related to raising "T-rex and Company" from the dead.


  • Enhance the learning environment in a large-enrollment introductory class through cooperative problem-solving.
  • Promote active participation in learning by using library and web resources to do research on a controversial topic in science (and ethics).
  • Apply knowledge explored in readings, lectures, and in-class discussions about dinosaurs, their diversity, distribution, physiology, behavior, environmental requirements, and extinction.
  • Gain a general understanding of the revolutionary techniques used to discover and retrieve ancient DNA and to produce a clone from a living adult animal.
  • Improve communication (written and oral) and collaboration skills by working cooperatively in small groups and arguing a position in an authoritative fashion.


Dinosaurs; clone; cloning; ancient DNA; fossil DNA

Topical Areas

Ethics, Scientific argumentation

Educational Level

High school, Undergraduate lower division



Type / Methods

Analysis (Issues), Debate, Dilemma/Decision, Public Hearing, Role-Play, Trial, Student Presentations



Subject Headings

Biology (General)  |   Evolutionary Biology  |   Paleontology  |   Geology  |   Earth Science  |  

Date Posted


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Lori Miller
College of Engineering
University of Washington
Seattle, WA
I used this case last summer in a genomics educational outreach program (applied research ethics component) for incoming freshmen. The students were excited about the topic and enjoyed preparing for their role-playing parts; however I only had 14 students (2 judges and 2 experts per role) and had to make modifications. I did not have a designated hitter on each team. Each expert had to ask and answer clarifying questions based on their role/testimony. Note that I also appointed the roles of each student rather than allowing them to make selections. I held court in the court room at the law school building and had the judges wear robes. I acted as the bailiff due to the shortage of students.

Securing the recommended video was difficult because of the demand for its use. Thus I asked a graduate student to prepare a presentation that would get the students started.

I recommend that the students interview experts for the roles they are playing. I found this to be very insightful for each student.