When Jurassic Park came out in 1993, much of the “science” it based its premise on was an amalgamation of fictitious concepts rooted in factual Paleontological research. It’s what made the book it was based on by Michael Crichton so hard to put down; so much of it seemed actually plausible. Could dinosaur DNA actually be combined with the frog DNA of today to create new life? Did Brachiosauruses move in herds? Did Velociraptors hunt in packs?
Some leniency must be given to a film that deals with genetic experimentation. It can easily explain away many of its inaccuracies with the premise that JP scientists tweaked their dinosaurs to have certain desirable traits, not found in their normal genetic makeup (Jurassic Park III and Jurassic World showcase this prominently). Jurassic Park answered a lot of our burning Dino questions, but its hybrid science was like its dinosaurs; flashy and cool, but not always dependable. As paleontologists continue to uncover the truth about the dinosaurs featured in the film (and its many sequels), it remains to be seen whether or not the movies will decide to implement the facts about dinosaurs (where are the feathers?!) or continue to keep grounding them in movie magic.
Updated on June 29th, 2022 by Kayleena Pierce-Bohen: Jurassic World: Dominion, the sixth movie in the Jurassic Park franchise has been released, and with it a much more accurate depiction of dinosaurs. InGen’s rival Biosyn has taken to developing “pure” and unaltered specimens, resulting in finally seeing feathered dinosaurs like oviraptors. However, there are still plenty of things that the blockbuster gets wrong about its giant stars.
T-Rex Had Excellent Vision
One of the most famous scenes in Jurassic Park occurs when the colossal T-Rex has her snout pressed up against Dr. Alan Grant and John Hammond’s grandchildren. He tells them not to move, believing that if they remain perfectly still, she won’t be able to track them with her poor eyesight.
This couldn’t be further from the truth! Paleontological research has shown that the T-Rex had excellent vision, similar to a bird of prey such as a hawk or an eagle. According to Insider, they would have had feathers as well. They can spot a field mouse in the grass from sixty feet in the air. And even if she couldn’t have seen them, her heightened sense of smell would have located them even in the rain.
Dilophosaurus Had No Neck Fan Or Venom
The dilophosaurus, with its multi-colored neck fan and ability to spit venom, is an iconic and enduring symbol of the harrowing dangers of the franchise. When it blinds its victims, it’s responsible for some of the most brutal deaths in the Jurassic Park franchise. The same article in Insider explains that no fossil evidence has shown that the dilophosaurus had any such fan or spit venom (though it did have a ridge of feathers down the back of its head).
When Jurassic Park was being made, there was a carnivore whose fossilized tooth was found to have grooves in it like a venomous snake, implying at the very least it could secrete venom when it bit its prey. However, that couldn’t be linked to the Dilophosaurus, which was also 20 feet long and 1,000 pounds, indicating it didn’t need a fan or venom to be a threat.
Dinosaurs Don’t Hold Their Arms Like Kangaroos
When imagining one of the bipedal carnivores of Jurassic Park, most people think that all of them walked with their arms held upright, elbows at their sides, and wrists down-turned like they’re a kangaroo or pushing a shopping cart. Paleontologists argue that they held their hands more like they were clutching a ball.
This also throws into question how the Velociraptors could open doors in the film. Raptors were intelligent, sure, but no more so than the average bird of today, and not as intelligent as dolphins like Dr. Alan Grant claims in Jurassic Park III. They weren’t figuring out how to open doors or follow sign language.
Velociraptors Looked Like Turkeys
Velociraptors are arguably some of the scariest species in Jurassic Park. With their long, agile bodies (6 feet), long snouts full of razor-sharp teeth, and protruding claws, they are reptilian death machines. But only hardcore raptor fans know that the versions seen in the film are a far cry from the real ones that existed in prehistoric times.
For one thing, Velociraptors were much smaller than many fans might expect, about the size of a Thanksgiving turkey. The film raptors much more closely resemble their cousin, Deinonychus, but that name doesn’t sound nearly as cool. They also lacked many facial muscles, just like birds of today, so much of their scary snarling was added for dramatic effect.
T-Rex Can’t Outpace A Car
For some time, there was a common misconception among Paleontologists that a T-Rex could run up to 40 mph. This was the prevailing mode of thought when Jurassic Park was made, making it seem entirely plausible that the T-Rex could, at least for a time, match the speed of the escaping jeep containing Dr. Sattler, Ian Malcolm, and Robert Muldoon.
A T-Rex has a running speed of only about half that. They often didn’t need to go any faster because the herbivores they were snacking on were quite lumbering as well. This means that in a car, it wouldn’t be so hard to get away from one.
A Mosasaur And A T-Rex Were The Same Sizes
One of the most interesting additions to the long list of dinosaur species featured in the Jurassic Park franchise was the Mosasaur featured in Jurassic World. Like a much scarier version of Free Willy, it hung out in a giant tank and did tricks for large crowds, with small children pressed against the glass in awe.
The Mosasaur in the film is much larger than its real-life counterpart by almost two times. In reality, the Mosasaur was a little larger than a T-Rex, yet in the film it munches on an Indominus Rex like its a Super Sized Dino Meal. They didn’t surface from underwater long enough to perform such a feat, and also didn’t have frills on their backs.
Dino DNA Is Too Old To Read
Michael Crichton did a great job of combining real-world scientific analysis and biochemistry with fiction, and one of the reasons why his Jurassic Park books were so popular is because there was an element of truth to their magic. But as much as it would be neat to think that Dino DNA could be extracted from amber, it’s just not possible for a number of reasons.
The foremost reason is that Dino DNA is just too old. Paleogeneticists maintain that after 1.5 million years, nucleotide bonds that make up DNA wouldn’t be long enough to extract any meaningful data. If dinosaurs have been extinct for 65 million years, how could any of their nucleotide bonds be present in mosquito blood?
The Spinosaurus Wasn’t A Violent Predator
As the Jurassic Park franchise continued after The Lost World (and Michael Crichton’s second book), different filmmakers and creative teams decided to try different narrative elements, like further genetic experimentation with dinosaurs, to varying degrees of success. Were more terrifying dinosaurs created? Yes. Were they accurate? No.
Jurassic Park III featured a Spinosaurus, a large carnivore with a sail on its back that was able to kill a T-Rex. Not only was that not possible since it primarily just ate fish, it wouldn’t have known how to interact with a species it was separated from by 35 million years. It was assumed that some sort of biological survival mode would kick in, regardless of how the real species would have interacted, resulting in one of the best dinosaur fights in the Jurassic Park movies.
Dino Droppings Weren’t That Massive
Early on in Jurassic Park, Dr. Sattler encounters a sick triceratops and beside it, a giant pile of its droppings. It’s a massive pile that’s taller than her and Ian Malcolm, both of whom somehow don’t pass out due to the stench that would undoubtedly be enough to knock them off their feet.
Fans have debated whether or not it was all from the sick triceratops or from a herd of them, but regardless, the largest known Coprolite (fossilized Dino droppings) ever recorded was only 40 inches long, implying the filmmakers chose the gigantic amount for shock value. Especially since the largest amount of droppings thought to be possibly excreted from the biggest dinosaur recorded could be 15 liters at most.
Pterosaurs And Pteranodons Couldn’t Pick Up Humans
Pteranodons were introduced in Jurassic Park III in a particularly harrowing sequence involving Dr. Alan Grant and visitors in an aviary. They were seen again in Jurassic World, as well as their smaller cousins Pterosaurs. While it was pretty epic finally seeing some winged dinosaurs in the franchise, the way they behaved was far from accurate.
As large as Pteranodons were, they lacked the grasping ability of modern-day winged predators such as eagles or falcons. This made it difficult for them to perch, much less grab at humans – they ate their aquatic prey much like a pelican. Jurassic World shows Pterosaurs, not nearly as big as Pteranodons, lifting entire humans off the ground, which couldn’t possibly have happened unless they were genetically altered.
Therizinosaurus Weren’t Blind
When Claire finds herself face to face with one of the best new dinosaurs in Jurassic World: Dominion, the herbivore is a hulking blind therapod that relies on its highly attuned sense of smell and echolocation to try to find her and remove her from its territory. While the movie gets its extremely long — and intimidating — unguals correct, as well as its feathery body, these dinosaurs were known to have very keen vision.
The state of the Therizinosaurus makes the scene particularly tense, relying on the same narrative device that made the T-Rex so scary, but a scar or some indication as to why this particular creature was blind would have made the depiction more accurate, especially since later the Therizinosaurus has no problem attacking a Giganotosaurus in a face-paced battle.
Giganotosaurus Was The Same Size As T-Rex
After establishing Rexy as the Big Bad of the franchise in Jurassic Park, it seemed like every subsequent movie had to make a scarier dinosaur, such as the Spinosaurus or the Indominus Rex. The Giganotosaurus, therefore, had to be the scariest predator ever seen in the movies, standing taller and broader than the T-Rex itself.
Giganotosaurus was a little larger than a T-Rex, but because according to Live Science there aren’t complete skeletons to compare it to, it seems as though any two fossils uncovered could be really more like the same size. Still, it’s more exciting to imagine that T-Rex could actually be threatened by the Giganotosaurus, especially with its long tail and sharp teeth.
Dinosaurs’ Survival Instinct Would Trump Their Hunting Instinct
Amidst the thrills and chills of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, the dinosaurs of Isla Nublar find themselves under attack from the eruption of Mt. Sibo, which threatens to kill all of the animals that can’t be evacuated. While this is happening, carnivores like the T-Rex and Carnotaur stop and attack the children.
The survival instinct would trump the carnivores’ need to feed. They would have been more interested in trying to get off the island to safety than stopping to hunt prey attempting to do the same.
Compies Weren’t Pack Hunters And Would Have Had Feathers
Throughout Jurassic Park: The Lost World, Compsognathus is seen to be a small creature with a huge appetite, able to attack humans and devour them like a piranha. Compies wouldn’t hunt in packs to take down so large a prey and would prefer to attack things just a little larger than themselves if there was nothing smaller to eat.
Furthermore, compies had feathers and looked more like small birds, often scavenging off of a kill left behind by a larger predator. Compies made a particularly terrifying villain that contrasted with the T-Rex and raptors, so their development wasn’t surprising.
Brachiosaurus Couldn’t Stand On Their Hind Legs
One of the most awe-inspiring scenes in the entire franchise occurs when Dr. Grant, Dr. Sattler, and Dr. Malcolm all see a Brachiosaurus for the first time. Though there are leaves within reach of its long neck, it stands on its hind legs to reach some at the top of a tree.
As Live Science explains, Brachiosaurus could not have reared up in such a way because its oddly shaped legs couldn’t support its strangely shaped body, and it would have fallen down. However, the scene is appropriately majestic, and seeing so large a sauropod perform such a feat of acrobatics is impressive.
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