The Science of Jurassic Park

Could anyone really bring dinosaurs back from extinction?

The idea of bringing dinosaurs to life after 65 million years is unlikely even with the most advanced technology. Soft tissues that contain DNA are nearly impossible to preserve and even under the best conditions DNA will degrade completely in about 6.8 million years. Further, filling the gaps with DNA of other animals would create hybrid creatures, more akin to the Chaos Effect toys than to the dinosaurs depicted in the novels and films, which share hardly any characteristics with frogs. With this in mind, the likelihood of pulling this off at all remains rather slim. Some scientists believe that a more likely scenario would be to modify DNA of modern birds to develop dinosaur-like traits such as teeth or long tails. Many possess these genes, which have been selectively turned off by evolution. Even so, it'd be far from recreating an extinct dinosaur.

What is Chaos Theory?

In Jurassic Park, Ian Malcolm presents his belief in chaos theory that predicts the failure of the park before it even opened. Chaos theory is essentially a theory that states that small changes in initial conditions can have a great effect on the future of the system. A common phenomenon is the so called "butterfly effect" which symbolizes how subtle changes, such as a butterfly's flapping wings, can have greater effects on the overall system and producing the tornado from changes in atmospheric conditions. Chaos theory has been applied to the study of various scientific fields since its first introduction in the 1880s.

Are birds really living dinosaurs?

Simply put, yes. In the last two decades, paleontologists have come to the conclusion that modern birds should be classified as coelurosaurian theropods. With dinosaur discoveries on the rise, the similarities between dinosaurs and birds become increasingly evident. It is now believed that most theropod dinosaurs were covered in feathers, including the movie stars Velociraptor, Gallimimus, and Compsognathus. Feathers evolved before birds, leaving scientists to reconsider their evolutionary purpose. Temperature regulation and display are among the most popular theories, though further research is needed.

Was Tyrannosaurus vision based on movement?

In the Jurassic Park novel and films, Alan Grant says that Tyrannosaur vision is based on movement and the best strategy for surviving an attack is to remain absolutely still. This does not reflect current scientific knowledge. The second novel corrects this inaccuracy, but the following films never address this issue. With forward facing eyes, T. rex had binocular vision and was probably very capable of finding its prey. Its vision is predicted to be far superior to a human and on par with modern predatory birds. Even if a Tyrannosaurus couldn't see you, your scent would give your position away. Tyrannosaurus is known for having a highly evolved sense of smell, similar to that of modern vultures.

Did Dilophosaurus really spit venom?

The venomous spit from Dilophosaurus was purely fictional, based on Crichton's novel. No venom glands of Dilophosaurus have ever been discovered. The similarity of dinosaurs to modern day birds and reptiles, however, does not rule out the possibility that some theropods may have used venom to kill their prey. Sadly, this artistic adaptation has been replicated in popular culture and many people now have an unrealistic image of the dinosaur.

Why were the Velociraptors so large?

The Velociraptor in Jurassic Park is portrayed as the size of a man. When Michael Crichton began research for his novel, Deinonychus antirrhopus was considered by some to be a species of Velociraptor, hence the fossils in the franchise being uncovered in Montana. This error has given many people a fantasized image of the creature and popular culture often depicts an inaccurate image following what they know from Jurassic Park. Although some similar dromeosaurs grew as large as or larger than the Jurassic Park dinosaurs, the real Velociraptor was about 3 feet tall.

Fact checking provided by Tom Parker