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Abstract: Seismosaurus, Mammoths, and the Real Jurassic Park

David D. Gillette

The newest and largest dinosaur to be added to the ranks of the giants of the Mesozoic is Seismosaurus hallorum from the Morrison Formation (Upper Jurassic) of New Mexico. It is the longest dinosaur known, and may be the largest at perhaps 100 tons, or the weight of 20 average elephants. New technology applied to these bones indicates some startling conclusions concerning the chemistry of preservation; they are original bone, including residual proteins.

A nearly complete skeleton of the Columbian mammoth, Mammuthus columbi, from the high mountains of the Wasatch plateau of Utah was so perfectly preserved that the bones were still flexible, owing to retention of original bone collagen. The site was a moraine-dammed glacial lake that formed a bog deposit at 9000 ft. elevation approximately 11,000 yr ago (late Pleistocene). The mammoth skeleton was associated with a partial cranium of the short-faced bear, Arctodus simus, and indirectly associated with three worked points made by Paleoindians.

From the bones of the mammoth skeleton, the genome for Cytochrome B, containing 1200 base pairs, has been established. Comparisons of that genome provide independent evidence of the evolution of mammoths from Old World ancestry, from the Indian elephants. African elephants are more distantly related. Future applications of the technology promise to delve into physiology of extinct species through sequencing of the genome for hemoglobin.

If amino acids and proteins can be recovered from dinosaur bones, and genetic material from Pleistocene animals, is cloning possible?

AAPG Search and Discovery Article #90985©1994-1995 AAPG Distinguished Lecture