The science that Jurassic Park got wrong

Fans of movie monsters rejoice! ‘Jurassic World’ is on the way.

The fourth installment in Steven Spielberg’s epic ‘Jurassic Park’ series has been given a fancy new title and a confirmed release date: 12 June 2015 (almost 22 years to the day after the original)

Only 22 years is a long time in the real world, and we know a lot more about dinosaurs now than we did back in 1993. So, we employed the help of Dr. Paul Barrett, the Natural History Museum’s Dinosaur Researcher (who also told us if ‘Jurassic Park’ could happen in real life), to find out exactly why the iconic creatures could do with a bit of an update.

“Some of the science portrayed was actually cutting edge, at the time,” says Paul. “But there are a few howlers in the film.”

Velociraptors weren’t that scary
Want to scare your kids? You need a Velociraptor – probably the scariest family-film nasties of all time. But the dinos you see on-screen are sort of made up: “Velociraptors aren’t at all like they appear in the movie,” says Dr. Barrett. “The animals they portray are very close relatives, a thing called Deinonychus (or ‘Utah Raptor’), but they were a really a much bigger species. If the movie had genuine Velociraptors, they would have been only a few feet tall and nowhere near as impressive. But it’s the word, ‘Velociraptor’, it makes for a very cinematic name - and a great movie villain.”

Dinosaurs weren’t “clever girls”
Robert Muldoon’s immortal last words “Clever Girl…” might not have been that true. “Velociraptors were smart,” says Paul. “But opening doors? I’m not sure they would have been smart enough to work that out. It might have happened by accident.” As for the dinos that killed pesky computer programmer Dennis Nedry, they couldn’t have done that either. “There’s no evidence that Dilophosaurus had a frill, nor could it spit tar like that,” Paul says. “Those things are complete artistic license.”

Meat eating dinosaurs were feathered
Birds are directly descended from dinosaurs (your garden is basically ‘Jurassic Park’), but they inherited that feathery look too. “We didn’t know it at the time, but about three years after the movie we started discovering our first feathered dinosaurs in China,” explains Paul. “And it’s now widely accepted that most meat eating dinosaurs would have been covered in feathers. There was a concession to that in ‘Jurassic Park 3’, where the Raptors were given little crests,” he adds. “But the problem for filmmakers is feathers just aren’t as scary as a scaly reptilian face. Or maybe they’re just more difficult to animate?”

T-Rex vision isn’t based on movement
The infamous movie monster is boring? Paul seems to think so: “I’ve been on record a few times saying that I regard T-Rex as the most boring dinosaur of all time,” he boasts. “It’s a big jock of a dinosaur and gets far more exposure than the other thousand species we know about. Even Dr Grant’s idea that T-Rex’s vision is based on movement? There’s just no evidence for it.” He continues: “If I was remaking ‘Jurassic Park’ I’d have T-Rex covered in short tufts of feathers. Not only because it’d be more accurate, but it would take away that macho edge,” Paul laughs. “Make T-Rex fluffy and give it a reality check.”

Dinosaur DNA doesn’t exist anymore
‘Jurassic Park’s’ entire premise hinges on creator Michael Crichton’s ingenious harvesting-DNA-from-fossilised-mosquitoes theory. It makes sense in the movie, only there’s an obstacle the ‘JP’ team forgot to tackle in the first place. “The problem is the DNA itself,” says Paul. “It’s not there. Dinosaurs died out 66 million years ago, and DNA, as far as we understand the chemistry of it, just doesn’t last that long.” He adds: “There have been a couple of claims over the years of getting DNA out of dinosaur bones, but they’ve all been shot down. The ugly fact is the DNA just isn’t there in the first place.”

Of course, none of this means that ‘Jurassic Park’ isn’t an amazing film, it’s a just a bit out-of-date. So would you like to see filmmakers apply the latest science and create a fluffy T-Rex or tiny raptors for the upcoming ‘Jurassic World’? Let us know in the comments below.