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How to clone a Velociraptor

Note: This is not a discussion blog. All discussion related to recreating dinosaurs should go on Forum:Cloning dinosaurs. This is simply a step-by-step guide that I have written based on information from this wiki.

Obtaining genetic material

1. Look for proteins in bones. Exceptionally well-preserved bones are most likely to contain protein fragments. Studies by Schweitzer et al have found both proteins and possible DNA in dinosaur fossils [1][2]. DNA code can be partially deduced from protein code, and DNA sequences can be made that code for these proteins.

2. Compare DNA of modern archosaurs to find out what the genes of their last common ancestors looked like. While Velociraptor is not an ancestor of birds, it is a close relative, and the small size of their genome suggests that their genes may not have been much different [3]. An ancient Triassic archosaur gene has been reconstructed in this way [4].

3. Look for genetic mutations or alleles that are linked to traits such as extra tail vertebrae.

  • Note: Teeth are the biggest hurdle, as birds can develop a mutation called talpid2 that causes them to develop tooth buds as embryos. However, the embryos never hatch because the mutants develop other, fatal deformities. Birds have also lost their genes for enamel. You will need to either use transgenics for teeth, as Jack Horner plans to do in the Chickenosaurus project, or use a genetically engineered harmless virus that mimics the molecular signal of talpid2 in the mouth without affecting other parts of the body. However, these will be reabsorbed into the beak, so you will need to stop that as well.

Sequencing the DNA

1. Extract the DNA and proteins. While the DNA found by Schweitzer cannot be extracted with current technology (and therefore it is impossible to tell whether it is contamination or not), it is possible to extract proteins.

2. Use BLAST to compare protein fragments found to others in the NCBI database. If a sequence is identical or similar to fungus, humans or bacteria, or is unique to any modern organism, your sample is contaminated. If it matches a consensus sequence found in all organisms, is similar but not identical to alligator or bird proteins, you likely have real dinosaur proteins.

3. Synthesize your DNA. Note that DNA can only be synthesized accurately in short fragments. To make complete genes, you have to put synthetic fragments of that gene together.

4. Test recreated genes to see if they are functional. The Triassic archosaur gene functioned in monkey cells, so normal mouse cells would be the easiest and most practical way to do this step. This way, we will also know what the genes did in their original host. Chicken embryos could also be used for testing phenotypes.

Creating a "Velociraptor"

1. Using genome editing methods such as CRISPR or MAGE, replace genes in bird stem cells with raptor genes.  Inter-order bird germline chimeras have been made using embryonic material from chickens and endangered bustards [5].

2. Wait for these embryos to hatch, grow up, and mate.

3. When the eggs hatch after a period of weeks or months (note: eggs made using the chimera method are mostly infertile), you will hopefully have new raptor-like animals.

  1. Schweitzer and team (2007). Analyses of Soft Tissue from Tyrannosaurus rex Suggest the Presence of Protein
  2. Schweitzer and team (2012). Molecular analyses of dinosaur osteocytes support the presence of endogenous molecules
  3. Organ et al (2007). Origin of genome size and structure in non-avian dinosaurs
  4. Chang and team (2002). Recreating a Functional Ancestral Archosaur Visual Pigment
  5. Wernery and team (2010). Primordial Germ Cell-Mediated Chimera Technology Produces Viable Pure-Line Houbara Bustard Offspring: Potential for Repopulating an Endangered Species

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