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3 months ago by Lendal

It's an Eocene mosquito. Dinosaurs were already extinct. Notable about this period is it was the last time there was no ice at the poles and water covered a lot more of the earth, as you can see from the map of the Eocene: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eocene which means there were probably a lot of blood-filled mosquitos around during the Eocene.

Also from the article: DNA has a half-life of ~521 years so there's no DNA left in the blood.

3 months ago by INTPenis

And yet they keep "restoring" parts of ancient DNA from fossilized bones for further analysis. Who knows what's possible in the future, maybe they'll use frogs to fill in the blanks or something. ;)

3 months ago by estaseuropano

When the bones have turned to stone there's not much to restore as the stone/minerals essentially just fill the empty shape that the body left behind. I think they can do some minor analysis still, like e.g. pigment analysis to identify possible colors. But if its just 'very old bones' you can still get DNA fragments. The chance of getting a whole strand of DNA is however pretty low. So you might be able to identify relations, but you wouldn't be able to clone them.

3 months ago by dreamcompiler

If you're talking about woolly mammoth DNA [0], that's around 10,000 years old.

This mosquito is around 50 million years old. The DNA in its belly is too degraded. Restoration ain't gonna happen.

[0] https://www.npr.org/2021/09/14/1036884561/dna-resurrection-j...

3 months ago by ramraj07

I just don’t know if I can truly believe that dna half life number. What dna molecule type in what condition ? What temperature? What does a long dna strand degrade into? Citations will be appreciated.

3 months ago by ramraj07

Thanks. Looks like the royal society link is the original work, but the nature editorial also mentions the same - it’s still possible we might have higher stability in other conditions (they only loooked at dna in bone samples). Not saying we will hold hope for dinosaur cloning, just that 521 years sounds too small.

3 months ago by Simon_O_Rourke

I love the way that map shows all the nations of our currently familiar final map all flooded and out of place... Except Ireland and Britain. Those are really the old country!

3 months ago by jacquesm

> DNA has a half-life of ~521 years so there's no DNA left in the blood.

That's true but there might be some fragments left.

3 months ago by cletus

It's amazing to think of how alien the Earth has been in the past. I think we humans tend to fall victim to this idea that the world we first experienced is how things "are" or "should be" when in reality there's no baseline at all. The EArth has been frozen to the equator (~500M years ago). Sea levels have been higher. They've also been significantly lower and quite recently too (eg there are Neolithic artifacts in the English Channel because that was a land bridge 10-50,000 years ago).

My favourite example: for the first 60M years of trees existing, there were no organisms to digest the wood of dead trees. They just sat there or maybe burned. This is where 95% of the coal comes from.

I'd really give anything to see some of these periods all the way back to the Cambrian Explosion, which had some truly alien-looking life based on fossil records.

It's also why I'm skeptical about doom and gloom predictions of runaway climate change. To be clear, I'm a firm believer that human activity has played and will continue to play a huge part in climate change. This also may be really bad for us. But the Earth will (ultimately) be fine. Something like 99% of the species that have ever existed are extinct now and this will continue to happen with or without human involvement.

The article points out that DNA degrades quickly (~500 year half life). That doesn't mean it can't survive for millions of years. It just means very little of it does. Also environmental factors come into play (eg it would probably survive longer in Antarctica, for example). Still, recovering a complete genome from such fragments is all but impossible (also mentioned).

Anyway, It's kind of amazing to think that a mosquito bit some creature ~46M years ago and a fossil of it somehow survived until today.

3 months ago by ahevia

While you correctly pointed out that human activity is contributing to climate change. You forgot to mention how unprecedented the rate at which the climate is changing. A process that normally takes tens of thousands of years is happening within a 3-4 human lifetimes. Far too quickly for organisms to adapt.

“Doom & gloom” is a defined differently to many people. What exactly do you mean here? Are humans going extinct & Earth is going to become uninhabitable? I certainly don’t think so.

3 months ago by cletus

Again, to reiterate: I'm not denying human impact on climate change. Let's just get that out of the way.

But your claim about rate of change, which is often repeated, is actually wrong [1]:

> Unlike the relatively stable climate Earth has experienced over the last 10,000 years, Earth's climate system underwent a series of abrupt oscillations and reorganizations during the last ice age between 18,000 and 80,000 years ago ... There are twenty-five of these distinct warming-cooling oscillations (Dansgaard 1984) which are now commonly referred to as Dansgaard-Oeschger cycles, or D-O cycles. One of the most surprising findings was that the shifts from cold stadials to the warm interstadial intervals occurred in a matter of decades, with air temperatures over Greenland rapidly warming 8 to 15°C (Huber et al. 2006). Furthermore, the cooling occurred much more gradually, giving these events a saw-tooth shape in climate records from most of the Northern Hemisphere (Figure 1).

[1]: https://www.nature.com/scitable/knowledge/library/abrupt-cli...

3 months ago by raffraffraff

Regardless of whether or not high rates of change happened in the past, they're not good for stability of life. That 10,000 years of stability was crucial to the evolution of our species and most food we eat (wheat being a huge example). So I don't think you can shrug it off and say "pah, this all happened before". So did WWII, and I wouldn't like to repeat it just because.

We're looking at mass extinctions, loss of whole ecosystems, more wildfires, more storms. Not good things. Worse if you do it to yourself.

3 months ago by ahevia

I’m aware of D-O cycles. I also wasn’t calling you a climate denier don’t worry.

The rapid rate of change induced by human caused warming still isn’t going be followed by a global cooling like D-O cycles. D-O cycles also occurred in a world that was still wild and not overdeveloped. The Earth’s biosphere was far more resilient back then. I don’t really see the point youre making? Was it just to disprove a statement I made?

3 months ago by sooheon

> I'm skeptical about doom and gloom predictions of runaway climate change

The doom and gloom isn't for the Earth on a planetary scale. It will be just fine as a celestial body, but the biofilm stuck to the surface may be significantly inconvenienced.

3 months ago by mellavora

Naw, only the multi-celled organisms. Most of us will be just fine.

3 months ago by JohnWhigham

Why is this an acceptable sentiment to have? This defeatist "who cares, the planet will be fine!" stance? Who gives a shit if it's happened numerous times in the past? Do you just want to sit by idly and let things get worse in what time you have left on the planet?

3 months ago by sooheon

Yeah, it's too bad multiple functioning neurons wired together seems to be a necessary condition for cognition.

3 months ago by technothrasher

> But the Earth will (ultimately) be fine.

What does that even mean? The Earth will be what it is. There is no 'fine' or 'not fine'. "Save the planet" really means "keep the planet in a state that is good for us."

3 months ago by thombat

> My favourite example: for the first 60M years of trees existing, there were no organisms to digest the wood of dead trees. They just sat there or maybe burned. This is where 95% of the coal comes from.

Intuitively that seems almost unbelievable, given how quickly microbes evolve to exploit potential food sources, including novel types of plastics. And Wikipedia says of it: "However, a 2016 study largely refuted this idea, finding extensive evidence of lignin degradation during the Carboniferous, and that shifts in lignin abundance had no impact on coal formation. They suggested that climatic and tectonic factors were a more plausible explanation."

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coal#Formation

3 months ago by jacquesm

If you already have a large variety of microbes capable of digesting a lot of different stuff then that gives a good starting point. Back then that may not have been the case.

3 months ago by rlpb

Then publish a paper and cite it from the Wikipedia page? I find it astonishing that you seem to be arguing against the current body of documented research into the topic and without citation. Do you not think that the existing literature has already considered your revelation? What does the existing literature have to say about it?

Edit: I mean, what I see here is:

<parent> Here's the existing body of research on this topic.

<jacquesm> I disagree.

How does this add to the discussion?

3 months ago by dghughes

Similar to Chernobyl now some areas have very little leaf litter or wood decaying. Even 32 years later some areas have not recovered.

3 months ago by cutler

So those little ****ers have been spreading their misery for at least 46 million years. There's no hope for us lot then.

3 months ago by epicureanideal

I definitely think we should get rid of mosquitos while we have the chance.

Imagine if civilization crumbles, and our descendants, huddled in caves and trying to find enough food to eat, are all getting diseases from these things, and people look back at us and say "but they thought it wasn't ethical to kill mosquitos".

3 months ago by sixstringtheory

I live in Alaska, famous for its mosquitoes as well as megafauna like bears, caribou, moose, wolves, migratory birds, fish, seals, whales etc.

I often wonder if those mosquitoes don’t fulfill some strange yet essential role in that beautiful ecosystem’s continuation.

Would love to hear that no, we can safely eliminate them and all the other cool and cuddly ones will be fine. But with my luck…

Really though, I’d like to see better medical technologies to deal with illnesses.

3 months ago by nfc

Couldn't we run experiments to discover whether they really have this role?

Like for example choosing an island with mosquitoes (and far enough from other lands as to not be rapidly repopulated) eliminating them there and seeing what the effect is in the ecosystem?

I wonder if something like this has ever been tried.

3 months ago by tpxl

Afaik there are some species of birds that rely on mosquitoes for most of their diet.

3 months ago by raducu

Mosquito biomass is not negligible I think. Surely some critters will suffer if we remove mosquitos.

3 months ago by Gravityloss

Fish eat mosquito larva.

3 months ago by james-redwood

Mosquitoes play an important (if at times unknown) role in ecosystems. The golden rule of conservation is never to play God. The introduction of rabbits in Australia are a particularly famous example of attempting to do so, where they decimated local ecosystems.

3 months ago by neuronic

It's not about ethical, it's about severe disruptions to ecosystems with unknown consequences. We know very little and are not capable of playing God without paying the price for it.

3 months ago by thrtythreeforty

I recall the time they found those fossilized mosquitos, and before long they were cloning DNA...

3 months ago by mathrall

Eocene would be one of the great land mass formations if ever we decided to move our digital era and advancements in that time.

3 months ago by taurusnoises

Stoked to show the world what a real pandemic looks like....

3 months ago by ilrwbwrkhv

So can there ever be a way of creating a Jurassic park in real life?

3 months ago by Jaruzel

Nope. Well, not without some extensive DNA meddling, to the extent that it may LOOK like a dinosaur, but it really isn't.

Putting aside the DNA issue (see other comments), there's also environmental issues - the atmosphere during prehistoric times (I'm not an expert here, so excuse the vagueness) was far more oxygen-rich that it is now. If a real dinosaur managed to time-travel to our present time, it would die of asphyxiation like a fish out of water.

3 months ago by ilrwbwrkhv

I guess if we are meddling with dna we can program them to need less oxygen?

3 months ago by egberts1

ooooh, one of the older but nicer article of Smithsonian Magazine.

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