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The Science of Jurassic World



How plausible are hybrid dinosaurs?

One aspect of Jurassic World that made everyone cringe initially was the plot of a hybrid dinosaur. For many, this was a radical idea that threatened to ruin the credibility of the film. Scientifically speaking, how plausible are these hybrid dinosaurs? Looking at the prior works in the franchise, we realize that all the animals are indeed hybrids, combining DNA from various species of modern animals in order to fill the gaps. Therefore, the Indominous is actually a more realistic portrayal of the outcomes than the other dinosaurs. If dinosaurs were spliced with frog DNA, we would expect amphibian traits to be more pronounced, but instead, almost all visual attributes resemble dinosaurs, albeit with Hollywood adaptations. Hybridization is likely the closest we will ever come to dinosaurs. The current consensus among scientists is that there would never be enough DNA to reconstruct a dinosaur; the best hope would be reverse engineering modern birds, in essence, turning on genes to resemble traits of extinct dinosaurs. Again, these hybrids are the work of science fiction.



Would anyone be able to train a dinosaur?

The answer would depend on what one would consider trained. The Velociraptors portrayed in the Jurassic Park saga are highly fictionalized, perhaps the most inaccurate of all the extinct animals portrayed. Based on the evidence from the previous films, this training program makes perfect sense. These fictional Velociraptors are touted as perhaps the smartest animals to ever live aside from humans. While this is a huge exaggeration from their extinct counterparts, some dinosaurs have been trained. Modern birds are now classified as surviving dinosaurs. Birds of prey, pigeons, crows, and other species have demonstrated the ability to follow commands. If the extinct dromeosaurs shared similar levels of intelligence, it would be feasible to assume that they could respond to modern training techniques. If these dinosaurs were on par with chickens, however, the film would have a very comical outcome.



How long did Tyrannosaurus live?

In Jurassic World, we witness the return of the Tyrannosaurus seen in the first film. Promotional material states that she lived on Isla Nublar for around 25 years and most likely a few years before that on Site B. While no one has a living Tyrannosaurus to test the actual lifespan, paleontologists do have the fossil record to serve as a guide. Using analysis of growth lines and comparisons between similar animals, paleontologists have concluded that the largest Tyrannosaurus ever found (Sue) was about 28 years old at the time of death. It is presumed that Sue did not die of old age, as few wild animals ever do. The Jurassic Park T.rex had the advantage of being the largest predator on Isla Nublar until Indominus arrived. She spent less than 10 years in the wild, being fed in the safety of a park setting and receiving veterinary care. Her appearance in Jurassic World would have been plausible.



Was Mosasaurs really that gigantic?

The Mosasaurus in Jurassic World is very oversized in comparison to its extinct counterpart. Mosasaurus probably reached a maximum size of around 50 feet in length. There is controversy over the actual length of the creature portrayed in Jurassic World. Some have used the Great White Shark from the feeding scene to estimate length, erroneously assuming a shark length of 21 feet, equal to the largest Great White ever officially recorded. Various promotional materials associated with the film give varying size estimates. The most likely estimates put the overall length of the animal at around 72 feet. While this is tremendously oversized, Dr. Wu gives a valid reason for why this might be the case. Wu explains how pressure from park management has led to the creation of monsters to excite the public rather than accurate representations of animals. It is plausible that genetic manipulation was done to make the Mosasaurus more impressive for audiences; the filmmakers had a similar purpose in mind.



Was the Indominous a monster?

A common criticism of the dinosaurs of the Jurassic Park franchise is that the dinosaurs behave too much like monsters (or humans) to be believable as animals. Jurassic World presents many very interesting behaviors. While the dinosaurs portrayed in the films are extinct and very little is known about the complexities of their behavior, it is possible to draw inferences from modern animals. The Indominous rex was created to be a monster, though in reality it does not differ from other intelligent animals. We learn that Indominous killed and ate her sibling, but this fratricide does occur in nature among many modern animals, including many species of birds such as the Golden Eagle. In fact, animals do kill for reasons other than food. Killer Whales have been known to torture their prey and dolphins have been witnessed killing porpoises for no apparent reason. House cats comprise some of the most ruthless killers of all, rarely consuming the prey that they hunt and kill. The notion that humans are the only creatures that kill for sport is a myth. As Dr. Wu states, "Monster is a relative term." Indominous was no more a monster than modern animals, with the exception of its gigantic size and collective prowess of deadly traits.



Could Indominous do all that?

Some would argue that Indominous rex took on the persona of the movie monster Godzilla with its phenomenal abilities. Though the prospect of so many features on one creature is terrifying, all of its traits are paralleled in nature. From the film and official sources, we know that the classified genome of I.rex consists of the following: Tyrannosaurus, Velociraptor, Carnotaurus, Giganotosaurus, Rugops, Majungasaurus, cuttlefish, tree frog, and pit adder. Dr. Wu tries to explain away these dangerous traits as byproducts of its genetic code, but as we may infer from the dialogue that follows that these traits were selected to create the ultimate military weapon. From the dinosaurs listed here, we can infer that the thickness of the skin derived from the abelisaurids, characterized by their bony osteoderms. Cuttlefish possess some of the most impressive camouflage of the animal kingdom, blending rapidly into their surroundings. Tree frog camouflage works beyond visible light, into the infrared spectrum of light. Many snakes can detect infrared thermal radiation through what is known as the loreal pit. The addition of Giganotosaurus and Tyrannosaurus for size and power, Therizinosaurus for killing arms, and Velociraptor for intelligence, makes for the ultimate predator. Isolating the genes to create such an intricate specimen would be a tall order, but given the already incredible feats of these movie scientists, it would be possible.



Fact checking provided by Tom Parker