Drilling amber
"Bingo! Dino DNA!"
Mr. DNA(src)

When a large amount of prehistoric amber is collected, the DNA has to be extracted from the mosquitoes or flesh it contains.

Jurassic Park media


Extracting the DNA

In most cases the mosquitoes are located deep inside the amber. In Jurassic Park a scientist is shown drilling a hole through the amber to the insect. After that, a syringe with a long needle is used to suck the contents of the insect.

Dr. DeSalle criticised this method in The Science Of Jurassic Park And The Lost World. The amber itself probably contains DNA of nematodes, spores and bacteria that could contaminate the syringe needle.


Recreating Dinosaurs

Recreating Dinosaurs

DNA extraction in Dinosaurs: Return To Life?

In real life, the amber that surrounds the insect has to be removed. The remaining piece of amber is sterilized. The amber is dipped into liquid nitrogen, which makes the amber porous. Then the insect or flesh can be taken from the amber.

A major challenge for ancient DNA studies on insect remains is that sampling procedures involve at least partial destruction of the specimens. Thomsen et al. (2009) designed a non-destructive DNA extraction method showing promising results in non-frozen insect museum specimens.[1] This methods might have potential for amber-entombed insect specimens.


  1. Thomsen PF, Elias S, Gilbert MTP, Haile J, Munch K, et al. (2009) Non-Destructive Sampling of Ancient Insect DNA. PLoS ONE 4(4): e5048. doi:10.1371/ journal.pone.0005048