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ENTOMBED BUGS COULD SHED LIGHT ON DINOSAURS

The genetic makeup of insects entombed in fossilized amber could shed light on dinosaurs, scientists say.

Researchers say they have cloned a fragment of genetic matter by patching together bits of DNA from extinct stingerless bees entombed in amber more than 25 million years ago.They hope the technique will yield dinosaur DNA from another ancient insect that may have eaten dinosaur blood.

The discovery shows that "DNA can actually sit around for a long time . . . millions of years and still retain enough of its activity to be sequenced," said entomology professor George O. Poinar of the University of California at Berkeley.

Poinar was part of a team that reported on the first stage of its work in the current issue of the British journal Medical Science Research.

The researchers cautioned that the molecular sequence is a tiny fraction of the entire genetic complement. But they said they are encouraged enough to try the procedure on other ancient creatures entombed in amber, including a biting midge that may have bitten dinosaurs and eaten their blood.

While it may sound a little like the scary "Jurassic Park," in which beasts are resurrected from scraps of ancient DNA, the scientists said the research isn't headed in that direction.

"I'm philosophically against reconstructing anything from the past," said Raul J. Cano, a molecular biologist at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo.

Even so, their labs have been filmed for the movie version of the book - a big-budget Steven Spiel-berg production.