Welcome to Superoceras, a blog about science and natural history, slightly biased towards paleontology and zoology, but inclusive of all sciences. Started in October of 2009, my goal is to communicate scientific knowledge (and the occasional piece of nonsense) in an informative and entertaining manner. Feel free to contact me with questions, comments, concerns, or criticism at superoceras(at)gmail(dot)com, and follow me on Twitter @Superoceras for all that and more in 140 characters or less!

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Jurassic REBOOT!

The rumor mill about future/upcoming films is always working overtime, and sometimes people wait years, even decades, before a film they heard about actually comes to fruition on the big screen. But THIS is something that Universal Studios needs to jump on IMMEDIATELY.

I know that for most professional paleontologists, the original "Jurassic Park" film (not to mention the second and third) was somewhat torturous to get through. Even in my youth, I had a lot of problems with the science depicted in the film. But I'm sorry, the concept was still great, and I knew exactly how Dr. Alan Grant felt the minute we saw that first Brachiosaurus - or is it officially Giraffatitan brancai now (Taylor 2009)? It was a blockbuster film, and still remains a classic.

A reboot that was just as groundbreaking would be much welcome. Scrap the dinosaurs-cloned-from-ancient-mosquito-leftovers-preserved-in-amber-mixed-with-frog-DNA nonsense. Get some good technical/scientific advisers on, and you would have an amazing, more believable movie. How about working with Jack Horner's backwards engineering concept (Horner & Gorman 2009)? Put the dino chicken on the big screen. That way, you can use whatever artistic license you want and put all kinds of theoretical animals on the screen because no one knows what a "dino chicken" would look like. Want animals known to science? CGI technology has advanced so much since the first film, you could have a gorgeously animated pack of life size, feathered Velociraptor terrorize your onscreen protagonists instead of the over sized, "smarter than primates" ones from the previous films (Turner et al. 2007). How about a bone crushing adult female Tyrannosaurus? Should you choose to resurrect extinct species from say... soft tissue recovered from fossil bones (Schweitzer et al. 2005).

Any film in which people and non-avian dinosaurs coexist is going to be more science fiction than fact by nature. But in the last 17 years, there have been so many amazing discoveries and exciting research, that who knows what the future will hold. Paleontology is becoming a much more interdisciplinary field, and we learn more and more about the amazing creatures that used to inhabit our planet on a daily basis. It would be nice to see some of this research and real science incorporated into a studio film. And it would be even nicer to see lifelike dinosaurs on the big screen again!

Taylor, M. P. 2009. A Re-evaluation of Brachiosaurus altithorax Riggs 1903 (Dinosauria, Sauropoda) and its generic seperation from Giraffatitan branchi (Janehsh 1914). Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 29, 787-806.

Horner, J. and Gorman, J. 2009. How to Build a Dinosaur: Extinction Doesn't Have to Be Forever. Dutton Adult, New York.

Turner, A. H. et al. 2007. Feather Quill Knobs in the Dinosaur Velociraptor. Science 371, 1721.

Schweitzer, M. H. et al. 2005. Soft-tissue vessels and cellular preservation in Tyrannosaurus rex. Science 307, 1952-1955.


  1. The cloning bit wasn't that hard to swallow (and I think was better explained in the book imho), and as far as premises go, it worked. I would love to see another Jurrasic park, though I wonder if fifteen years from now scientists will look back at the idea on how to clone dinosaurs as silly just as we look back to the original idea.

  2. At the time (1990) Michael Crichton wrote the book, the idea that you could clone an animal from bits of DNA was still pretty new, and of course, with any new science/technology, people began imagining what could be done with it in the future. I think for the purposes of his story, the idea worked well, and was believable, but there were a lot of technical problems with the "dino DNA" explanation. Two big flaws I can point out quickly are: 1) if you're getting your DNA from the gut of a mosquito, there is going to be mosquito DNA in there too. 2) Why would you use frog DNA to fill in the "holes" in the genetic code, when bird DNA is readily available, and birds are living dinosaurs? Basically in the end, the animal you would end up with is not a dinosaur at all, but rather, a dino/mosquito/frog monster. Yikes!

    But you're absolutely right in pointing out that no matter how they rearrange the storyline, 15 years from now we may look back and think it was silly as the first time around, no matter how entertaining it will be to have JP back on the big screen again.

    Either that, or we'll all have our own dino-chickens!