Dinosaur DNA in amber has never been found. However, many scientists have looked for it, and many still do, without success. Some scientists have claimed to have extracted DNA from insects trapped in amber, but this has generally been met with skepticism. Although bones can contain proteins, and some of the dinosaur genome can be deduced from them, it is important to know that only 1% of an animal's genome consists of genes. This is where the idea of DNA in amber comes to mind.
There is much debate as to how long DNA can last in amber. Although a study in 2012 by Morten Allentoft found that DNA in bones can only last for up to 6.8 million years (Source 1), it is important to note that this scientist studied moa bones found in New Zealand, and not amber. George O. Poinar once claimed to have extracted 125 million year old DNA from a weevil in Lebansese amber, but recent studies have cast doubts on these results (Source 2).
There are only a few localities which contain Mesozoic amber, and even fewer contain any recognizable inclusions.
- Early Cretaceous amber has been found in Burma. Pieces of this amber have contained many inclusions, including bees, beetles, wasps and mites.
- The famous Hell Creek Formation has yieled some amber. However, the amber tends to be small and fragile, and most pieces are empty. Extraction attempts would likely destroy both the amber and the inclusion (Source 3).
- Late Cretaceous amber has been found in Sayreville, New Jersey, and has been dated at around 90 million years old. Pieces are usually pea-sized, sometimes larger. Inclusions are somewhat common, and can contain leafhoppers, midges, beetles, wasps, cockroaches and ants (Sources 4 and 5).
- 230 million year old amber from the Triassic has been found in northeast Italy. These have yielded mites, along with an extinct insect related to gnats and mosquitoes.
- Amber has been found in Alaskan Cretaceous deposits. Insect inclusions are rare, but have been found before, including members of the heleidae, more commonly known as biting midges (Source 6, 7).
There are some problems with finding DNA in amber.
- Some blood-sucking insects use more than one host. Because of this, they may contain the DNA of several different dinosaurs, which would have to be separated. However, since most modern mosquitoes and midges only live for 1-3 days, it is possible that they would only have enough time to bite one species.
- Even though DNA lasts longer in amber than in bones, any dinosaur DNA found in amber would be heavily degraded.
- Dinosaurs were not the only large animals on Earth during the Mesozoic. Other warm-blooded animals, such as mammals and pterosaurs were also around. Therefore, there is no guarantee that the ancient DNA would be from a dinosaur.