Fact check: Scientists didn’t create Tyrannosaurus rex embryo with chicken DNA – USA TODAY

General

The claim: Scientists created a T-rex embryo using chicken DNA

From murder hornets to government-released UFO videos, it’s becoming difficult to be surprised by 2020’s news. And yet, some Facebook users have recently latched onto a recycled satire story from 2016 claiming that scientists have successfully created a T-rex embryo – using chicken DNA.

The post, which features an image of a blue-tinted dinosaur-like embryo, claims that researchers at North Carolina State University were able to produce the “first fully living” dinosaur embryo in millions of years, after retrieving a 68-million-year-old DNA sample from soft tissue cells found in a pregnant Tyrannosaurus rex fossil.

“Who called Dinosaurs in August??” Facebook user Mark Joseph wrote. He did not respond to USA TODAY’s request for comment and clarification.

More:Scientists discover tiny, 4-inch tall dinosaur relative

Post shares screenshot from a satire website

The image shared by the poster is a screenshot from an article by World News Daily Report, a satire website with the tagline “Where facts don’t matter.”

The satire article claims that within the fossil of a pregnant T-rex, researchers at N.C. State found DNA preserved well enough to introduce it to the skin cells of a chicken. That produced the first “fully living” dinosaur embryo in millions of years. To “back up” the finding, the article quotes made-up researchers from the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences’ Paleontology Research Lab.

That lab is real and led by Dr. Lindsay Zanno, an associate professor at NCSU – not Linda Rushmore from the satire article, who said T-rex’s are “the dinosaur equivalent of the chicken.”


In fact, the museum issued a news release denying the satire story’s claims when it first surfaced in 2016, calling its content and sources a “complete fabrication.”

Attached to that statement was some real information about the accessibility of dinosaur DNA.

“Scientists have proposed that DNA has a pretty short shelf life, most saying that it is unlikely to persist as long as a million years, and surely not more than five or six million years at the most,” wrote NCSU public communication specialist Tracey Peake in a blog post. “That sort of leaves out the possibility that we will ever obtain it from dinosaurs that last walked the earth over 65 million years ago!”

Similarities in T-rex and chicken DNA

Though hybrid dinosaur-chickens haven’t yet been created, the two creatures already have a fair amount in common.

Birds, like chickens and ostriches, are the closest living relatives to the T-rex – more-so than living reptiles, like alligators. The revelation was first published in the journal Science in 2008.

More:Vegetable growing and backyard chickens: Gardening, farming booms during coronavirus pandemic

“Our results at the genetic level basically agree with what has been seen in skeletal data,” one of the researchers, Harvard’s John M. Asara, told the New York Times. “There is more than a 90 percent probability that the grouping of T. rex with living birds is real.”

Our rating: False

The article that made the original claim was satire. Posts that share the “news” that scientists recreated a T-rex embryo from chicken DNA without indicating it is satire are FALSE. While T-rex’s and chickens do share genetic similarities, no such hybrid of the two has been created.

Our fact-check sources: