Just How Long Does DNA Last?

Those were the days...The moa can be considered New Zealand’s equivalent of the Mammoth. Both were large animals hunted to extinction by humans in relatively recent history. Sightings of both are occasionally claimed, deep in the forests. And both invoke optimistic hopes that they could be someday cloned, and returned to their ancient grasslands. The moa is also the animal in the picture to the right, and the icon for this blog is a moa footprint – as you might have gathered I’m rather fond of them. They last properly came up on this blog eleven months ago, in The Extinction of the Megafauna, but in today’s post – Bone DNA Decays Too Fast for Evolution – Brian Thomas brings them up in quite a different context. For those readers unfamiliar with the soft-tissue family of young Earth creationist claims, think radiometric dating – and be prepared to have your expectations completely reversed.

DNA is a biochemical that contains genetic information. And like all other cellular ingredients, it decays if cellular systems don’t maintain it. Now, scientists are more confident about how fast it falls apart after a cell dies.

A team of researchers recently completed a thorough investigation of 158 ancient leg bones that belonged to giant extinct birds called moa, which once lived on New Zealand’s South Island. Using radiocarbon ages and measures of DNA integrity, the researchers generated a DNA decay rate with unprecedented rigor. But their results do not fit with claims from secular scientists who have found plenty of examples of intact DNA from supposedly million-year-old samples.

They used radiocarbon dating and produced a result with “unprecedented rigor”? How… odd for Mr Thomas to say such a thing. Continue reading