Giganotosaurus vs. Spinosaurus: Which Jurassic T-Rex Killer Is Stronger?

Monday, June 28, 2021

Spinosaurus and Giganotosaurus have both taken on the T-Rex in the Jurassic Park and Jurassic World movies, but which dinosaur is actually stronger?

Giganotosaurus, in contrast, was much more land-focused in its hunting. The creature is believed to have been a bit larger overall than a T-Rex, and its body type was much closer to that of the T-Rex than Spinosaurus. According to the available evidence, Giganotosaurus still didn’t have the teeth size or jaw strength of a Tyrannosaurus, but it was more accustomed to taking on larger land-based prey than Spinosaurus.

So which dinosaur was actually stronger? In truth, it depends on the environment. In any sort of aquatic or partially aquatic space, the Spinosaurus might have the advantage because of its superior mobility. The Spinosaurus was also longer and, with its spinal fin, taller than the Giganotosaurus. However, in most land-based scenarios, Giganotosaurus would likely have the upper hand. Its teeth and jaw were much stronger for facing off against similarly sized opponents, and the rest of its body was better equipped for mobility and agility on land.

Giganotosaurus would also probably have a better chance against a T-Rex than Spinosaurus would. The creature's slightly larger size and comparable body type would have helped, but it still would have likely fallen short before the Tyrannosaurus. T-Rex was still comparable in size, and its predatory abilities and overall strength were likely superior. So while Jurassic World can keep bringing in new dinosaurs to serve as the movies’ villains, they all would have had major trouble facing a T-Rex in real life.


Scientists Hail Stunning 'Dragon Man' Discovery

Saturday, June 26, 2021

The Dragon Man's skull is huge, with a brain size about the same as the average for our species. Photo by KAI GENG

Chinese researchers have unveiled an ancient skull that could belong to a completely new species of human.

The team has claimed it is our closest evolutionary relative among known species of ancient human, such as Neanderthals and Homo erectus.

Nicknamed "Dragon Man", the specimen represents a human group that lived in East Asia at least 146,000 years ago.

It was found at Harbin, north-east China, in 1933, but only came to the attention of scientists more recently.

An analysis of the skull has been published in the journal The Innovation.

One of the UK's leading experts in human evolution, Prof Chris Stringer from London's Natural History Museum, was a member of the research team.

"In terms of fossils in the last million years, this is one of the most important yet discovered," he told BBC News.

"What you have here is a separate branch of humanity that is not on its way to becoming Homo sapiens (our species), but represents a long-separate lineage which evolved in the region for several hundred thousand years and eventually went extinct."

Artist's impression of what Dragon Man may have looked like. His skull suggests he was powerfully built and rugged. Photo by KAI GENG

The researchers say the discovery has the potential to rewrite the story of human evolution. Their analysis suggests that it is more closely related to Homo sapiens than it is to Neanderthals.

They have assigned the specimen to a new species: Homo longi, from the Chinese word "long", meaning dragon.

"We found our long-lost sister lineage," said Xijun Ni, a professor at the Chinese Academy of Sciences and Hebei GEO University in Shijiazhuang.

He told BBC News: "I said 'oh my gosh!'. I could not believe that it was so well preserved. You can see all the details. It is a really amazing find!"

The skull is huge compared with the average skulls belonging to other human species. Its brain was comparable in size to those from our species.

Dragon Man had large, almost square eye sockets, thick brow ridges, a wide mouth, and oversized teeth. Prof Qiang Ji, from Hebei GEO University, says it is one of the most complete early human skull fossils ever discovered.

"It has a mosaic combination of primitive and more modern features, setting itself apart from all the other species of human," the researcher explained.

The scientists believe that Dragon Man was powerfully built and rugged. But little is known about how he lived, because his skull was removed from the site in which it was found.

This means that there is currently no archaeological context, such as stone tools, or other elements of culture.

The skull was reportedly discovered in 1933 by a construction worker helping to build a bridge on the Songhua river running through Harbin, in Heilongjiang province, which translated means Black Dragon River, hence the new human's name..

The city was under Japanese occupation at the time. Suspecting its cultural value, the Chinese worker smuggled it home, to keep it out of the hands of occupiers. He hid it at the bottom of his family's well, where it remained for around 80 years. The man told his family about the skull before he died, which is how it eventually got into the hands of scientists.

The researchers claim the form of ancient human on the far left may have evolved into the relatively modern Dragon Man on the far right over millions of years. KAI GENG

Dragon Man joins a number of early human remains uncovered in China that have proven difficult to categorise. These include remains from Dali, Jinniushan, Hualongdong, and the Xiahe jawbone from the Tibetan Plateau.

There has been a fierce debate about whether these remains represent primitive examples of Homo sapiens, Neanderthals, a human group called the Denisovans, or something else entirely.

The Denisovans were first identified from DNA retrieved from a 50,000-30,000-year-old finger bone discovered in Denisova Cave, Russia. Because the remains associated with this sister lineage to the Neanderthals were so fragmentary, the group has been described as a "genome in search of a fossil record".

Prof Marta Mirazon Lahr, from the University of Cambridge, believes that Dragon Man was, in fact, a Denisovan.

"The Denisovans are this fascinating mystery population from the past. There is a suggestion (from DNA evidence) that the jawbone found in the Tibetan Plateau might be a Denisovan," she said. "And now because the jawbone from Tibet and Dragon Man look like each other - now we might actually have the first face of the Denisovan."

And a group that recently published details of remains from Israel belonging to a possible precursor species to the Neanderthals, believes Dragon Man might be descended from humans that first emerged in the Levant region.

But the Chinese researchers maintain that the hard-to-classify fossils from East Asia represent the gradual evolution of a new species. Prof Ni has a gracious response to those that disagree with this assessment.

"The results will spark a lot of debate and I am quite sure that a lot of people will disagree with us," he said.

"But that is science and it is because we disagree that science progresses."


Jurassic World: Dominion IMAX Preview Breakdown, Here's What We Learned

Saturday, June 26, 2021

The first action-packed footage from Jurassic World: Dominion has arrived alongside IMAX screenings of F9.

It may be nearly a year away but Universal Pictures is already getting moviegoers hyped up for Jurassic World: Dominion. The third entry in the current trilogy is set to hit theaters next summer and the studio recently revealed a massive (in every sense of the word) tease for the blockbuster alongside IMAX screenings of F9. It was action-packed and revealing. While we wait for the footage to arrive online, here's a breakdown of what is currently playing in theaters in the Jurassic World 3 IMAX preview.

Jurassic World: Dominion IMAX Preview Footage Breakdown 

Warning: spoilers ahead for the Jurassic World 3 IMAX preview.

For those who don't want anything spoiled, turn back now. The footage, it's worth mentioning, is not just a trailer. It is an extended preview that contains a huge, extended sequence along with what can be described as a brief teaser. Not a lot of narrative is weaved into the preview. Though it does give a general sense of what this movie is offering. And what it's offering is some wild new ideas. It promises to explore things new to the franchise.

The footage kicks off in the distant past, approximately 65 million years ago. Yes, we are going back to the time when dinosaurs ruled the Earth. It plays like the most expensive educational movie ever produced at first. Sort of like the old dinosaur specials one might see on the Discovery Channel. Only with blockbuster sensibilities. While we see some familiar dinosaurs, it all looks and feels different. The color palette. The landscapes. The brutal nature of the ancient world. Dinosaurs trying to survive in their natural element. All it's missing is some narration from Richard Attenborough. Even the look of the dinosaurs themselves is a radical departure. Yes, they have feathers. There is an attempt to make these creatures look more scientifically accurate than they have in the Jurassic Park series up to this point.

This chunk of the preview reaches a head when a T-rex, presumably the one that provided the DNA for the original Jurassic Park T-rex, gets into a hardcore brawl with a giganotosaurus, a new species to the franchise. The fight looks pretty incredible and packs a punch. It's violent and big. In the end, the rex meets its demise. We see a mosquito land on its skin, drink a little blood, and fly away. Again, the presumption here is that this mosquito will get trapped in amber and provide some dino DNO for John Hammond to exploit in millions of years.

We are then transported to the present, picking up after the events of 2018's Fallen Kingdom. As fans will surely recall, the remaining dinosaurs from Isla Nublar had been transported to the mainland and are now roaming free. As we come to learn, this has resulted in, as Ian Malcolm would put it, chaos. A team in a helicopter is seen chasing the T-rex through some greenery in the dead of night. Unfortunately for some moviegoers, she is on a direct path to a drive-in theater. Rexy then storms through, carving up a path of destruction. The outdoor theater is thrown into a frenzy, with everyone desperate to escape with their lives. It is both scary and fun. Director Colin Trevorrow manages to inject little moments of humor amid the carnage. Yes, we saw a T-rex loose in San Diego in The Lost World but this sequence has a radically different feel to it. It's more convincing.

After that sequence is over, we then move on to what can loosely be described as a brief teaser trailer. We see more shots of dinosaurs out in the real world with humans. It is pure pandemonium. We get a glimpse of a flock of what appear to be gallimimus stampeding through traffic. We see an allosaurus ripping through a camp in the woods. A shot that was actually recycled from the live-action Battle at Big Rock short. The mosasaurs leaps from the ocean to steal a fishing boat's catch. The clear point of emphasis is that humans and dinosaurs must co-exist now. This is no longer an isolated incident. We then get to the title card promising that the movie will be coming our way next summer.

What Did We Learn from the Jurassic World: Dominion IMAX Preview? 

Aside from actually seeing some of what Colin Trevorrow has cooked up, we learned a bit, in broad terms, about the movie. Much of what has been hyped up so far is the fact that the entire franchise will be united. The original JP trio, Sam Neill, Laura Dern and Jeff Goldblum, are returning as Alan Grant, Ellie Sattler and Ian Malcolm, respectively. As are Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard as Owen Grady and Claire Dearing. The old and the new are set to collide. But the footage didn't show us one single frame of these actors in action. Instead, it tried to paint a picture of the world. It created a feeling. A sense of atmosphere.

There is no way the filmmaking team could have known that drive-ins were going to explore in 2020 as the pandemic raged on. But that moment feels oddly fitting now. To that end, as much as this may sound like a weird thing to say, the preview made this all feel real. Or as real as something outlandish could possibly feel. Fallen Kingdom, in many ways, felt like a means to an end. It did not feel remotely real. This footage, on the other hand, feels, dare I say, grounded. If dinosaur and man were suddenly thrown in the mix together after 65 million years, this seems like a fair representation of the chaos that would ensue. Universal is not going hammy with this one, which would be easy to do, given the concept. They're treating it seriously, though not so much that it takes the fun out of it.

Perhaps the biggest takeaway is that Universal sees this as a blockbuster in the truest sense of the word. A movie that must be seen on the big screen. A movie worth hyping up a year in advance. A movie that will show audiences something they haven't seen before. Much like Steven Spielberg's original Jurassic Park. This is being positioned as a must-see pop culture moment. And if the marketing can be this compelling all the way through, it may well indeed be a genuine must-see, shared pop culture experience. Jurassic World: Dominion hits theaters on June 10, 2022, from Universal Pictures.


Jurassic World 3 Explains John Hammond's Mosquito Luck

Sunday, June 27, 2021

Jurassic World: Dominion's opening scene is an ingenious retcon that explains John Hammond's amazing luck and Jurassic Park's dinosaur creation myth.

Jurassic World: Dominion's opening sequence explains how John Hammond (Richard Attenborough) was so lucky to find a mosquito preserved in amber that contained the DNA he needed to clone dinosaurs in Jurassic Park. Although director Colin Trevorrow's conclusion to his Jurassic World trilogy doesn't hit movie theaters until June 2022, fans can get a preview of Jurassic World: Dominion footage attached to IMAX screenings of Fast & Furious 9.

The pseudo-science Hammond and his genetics company, InGen, used to breed cloned dinosaurs in Steven Spielberg's blockbuster 1993 film was derived from the Jurassic Park novel by Michael Crichton. Hammond and his chief geneticist, Dr. Henry Wu (B.D. Wong) achieved this miracle of science by extracting dinosaur DNA from the blood sucked by mosquitos in the Cretaceous era. The insects were found preserved in amber with the dino DNA in their blood intact. InGen's geneticists were then able to clone dinosaurs from the blood and the used amphibian DNA to fill the holes in the dinos' genetic code. Hammond's company cloned 15 dinosaur species in the original Jurassic Park. By 2015, when the theme park was rebuilt and successfully operated as Jurassic World, Dr. Wu was able to add hybrid monster dinosaurs like the Indominus Rex to InGen's menagerie.

Jurassic World: Dominion's opening scene shows the mosquito sucking the blood of a Brachiosaurus. Then, a battle between a Tyrannosaurus Rex and an even bigger apex predator the film introduces, the Gigantosaurus, commences, with the mighty T-Rex being killed by the Gigantosaurus. The critter then sucks the blood of the T-Rex from its corpse before it finds itself consumed by the amber, which preserves it and the dino blood it's carrying perfectly for the next 65-million years. Because John Hammond "spared no expense", InGen eventually finds this mosquito  and extracts the DNA within it to clone Jurassic Park's original dinosaurs. Thus, in an ingenious retcon, the T-Rex in Jurassic Park is the clone of the T-Rex that died at the start of Jurassic World: Dominion, in a profound circle of life moment.


Colin Trevorrow decided to open Jurassic World: Dominion in the Cretaceous era to show the dinosaurs in their natural time and environment, which is something fans have seen yet in the five previous films. Not only did this move allow Trevorrow to integrate 7 new dinosaur species that also haven't appeared in the Jurassic movies before, including the Gigantosaurus, but it gave the director the chance to answer a question that the entire franchise hinges on: How did John Hammond get so lucky to find a mosquito that was able to suck the blood he needed to clone his dinosaurs 65 million years later? Jurassic World: Dominion's prologue ingenuously answers that question with a violent Cretaceous conflict and the fateful, blood-sucking insect that would provide the means for dinosaurs to live again in the 20th and 21st centuries.

Jurassic Park briefly touched upon the dinosaur cloning origin with the entertaining animated short film Hammond showed Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Neill), Dr. Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern), and Dr. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum), all of whom reprise their roles in Jurassic World: Dominion. Amusingly, Hammond's cartoon shows a mosquito sucking the blood from a Brachiosaurus' leg before it's trapped in amber. Jurassic World: Dominion's prologue embellishes the creation myth and links the fan-favorite T-Rex's death and resurrection via cloning to the origin story. This brings the Jurassic franchise full circle and cleverly explains John Hammond's one-in-a-million stroke of luck that enabled him to clone his dinosaurs.


Were Dinosaurs Warm-Blooded? Research Team Discovers Arctic Dinosaur Nursery

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Illustration showing a pair of adult tyrannosaurs and their young living in the Arctic during the Cretaceous Period. Credit: James Havens

Images of dinosaurs as cold-blooded creatures needing tropical temperatures could be a relic of the past.

University of Alaska Fairbanks and Florida State University scientists have found that nearly all types of Arctic dinosaurs, from small bird-like animals to giant tyrannosaurs, reproduced in the region and likely remained there year-round.

Their findings are detailed in a new paper published in the journal Current Biology.

“It wasn’t long ago that people were pretty shocked to find out that dinosaurs lived up in the Arctic 70 million years ago,” said Pat Druckenmiller, the paper’s lead author and director of the University of Alaska Museum of the North. “We now have unequivocal evidence they were nesting up there as well. This is the first time that anyone has ever demonstrated that dinosaurs could reproduce at these high latitudes.”

The findings counter previous hypotheses that the animals migrated to lower latitudes for the winter and laid their eggs in those warmer regions. It’s also compelling evidence that they were warm-blooded.

Greg Erickson and Pat Druckenmiller place a plaster jacket on a bone found along the Colville River on Alaska’s North Slope. Credit: Photo by Kevin May

For more than a decade, Druckenmiller and Gregory Erickson, a Florida State University professor of biological science, have conducted fieldwork in the Prince Creek Formation in northern Alaska. They have unearthed many dinosaur species, most of them new to science, from the bluffs above the Colville River.

Their latest discoveries are tiny teeth and bones from seven species of perinatal dinosaurs, a term that describes baby dinosaurs that are either just about to hatch or have just hatched.

“One of the biggest mysteries about Arctic dinosaurs was whether they seasonally migrated up to the North or were year-round denizens,” said Erickson, a co-author of the paper. “We unexpectedly found remains of perinates representing almost every kind of dinosaur in the formation. It was like a prehistoric maternity ward.”

Recovering the bones and teeth, some no larger than the head of a pin, requires perseverance and a sharp eye. In the field, the scientists hauled buckets of sediment from the face of the bluffs down to the river’s edge, where they washed the material through smaller and smaller screens to remove large rocks and soil.

The research team’s camp sits on the banks of the Colville River on Alaska’s North Slope, with the bluffs rising in the background. Credit: Photo by Patrick Druckenmiller

Once back at their labs, Druckenmiller, Erickson and co-author Jaelyn Eberle from the University of Colorado, Boulder, screened the material further. Then, teaspoon by teaspoon, the team, which included graduate and undergraduate students, examined the remaining sandy particles under microscopes to find the bones and teeth.

“Recovering these tiny fossils is like panning for gold,” Druckenmiller said. “It requires a great amount of time and effort to sort through tons of sediment grain-by-grain under a microscope. The fossils we found are rare but are scientifically rich in information.”

Next, the scientists worked with Caleb Brown and Don Brinkman from the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology in Alberta, Canada, to compare the fossils to those from other sites at lower latitudes. Those comparisons helped them conclude that the bones and teeth were from perinatal dinosaurs.

Once they knew the dinosaurs were nesting in the Arctic, they realized the animals lived their entire lives in the region.

Erickson’s previous research revealed that the incubation period for these types of dinosaurs ranges from three to six months. Because Arctic summers are short, even if the dinosaurs laid their eggs in the spring, their offspring would be too young to migrate in the fall.

Global temperatures were much warmer during the Cretaceous, but the Arctic winters still would have included four months of darkness, freezing temperatures, snow and little fresh vegetation for food.

“As dark and bleak as the winters would have been, the summers would have had 24-hour sunlight, great conditions for a growing dinosaur if it could grow quickly enough before winter set in,” said Brown, a paleontologist at the Royal Tyrrell Museum.

Year-round Arctic residency provides a natural test of the animals’ physiology, Erickson added.

“We solved several long-standing mysteries about the dinosaur reign, but opened up a new can of worms,” he said. “How did they survive Arctic winters?”

“Perhaps the smaller ones hibernated through the winter,” Druckenmiller said. “Perhaps others lived off poor-quality forage, much like today’s moose, until the spring.”

Scientists have found warm-blooded animal fossils in the region, but no snakes, frogs or turtles, which were common at lower latitudes. That suggests the cold-blooded animals were poorly suited for survival in the cold temperatures of the region.

“This study goes to the heart of one of the longest-standing questions among paleontologists: Were dinosaurs warm-blooded?” Druckenmiller said. “We think that endothermy was probably an important part of their survival.”

Reference: “Nesting at Extreme Polar Latitudes by Non-Avian Dinosaurs” by Patrick S. Druckenmiller, Gregory M. Erickson, Donald Brinkman, Caleb M. Brown and Jaelyn J. Eberle, 24 June 2021, Current Biology.
DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2021.05.041

This research was supported by the National Science Foundation.


Why Jurassic World 3's 65 Million Years Flashback Is So Dark

Thursday, June 24, 2021

Jurassic World: Dominion just showed off a prehistoric flashback scene, but it was rather gloomy. Here's the reason why the sequence is so dark.

Jurassic World: Dominion has just released an extended first look at the film's opening prehistoric flashback sequence, and fans are wondering why the scene is so dark and hard to see. The scene is currently included as a special preview during IMAX showings of F9, and is the first big look audiences have gotten at the highly anticipated blockbuster film. The third entry in the Jurassic World trilogy and the sixth overall Jurassic film is set to open in the summer of 2022, and this exhilarating sneak peek offers a glimpse into the new directions this climactic finale to the story will be going.

For those who've been lucky enough to see it, the sequence is a bold departure for the franchise up to this point. Instead of focusing on the modern cloned dinosaurs that have starred in the previous five Jurassic films, this sequence takes viewers 65 million years into the past to show dinosaurs as they really existed, feathers and all. Dinosaurs and prehistoric creatures of various sizes and descriptions are seen, including several sauropods, some pterosaurs, and two giant predators: the legendary T-Rex and the massive Giganotosaurus. The sequence concludes with one of these mighty creatures slaughtering the other, and the corpse of the losing dinosaur being visited by a mosquito that drinks its blood.

Aside from the epic scale, exciting dino fight, and unprecedented setting, the biggest takeaway from this new footage online seems to be how dark it is. While the scene isn't too murky to properly make out, most of the action is surprisingly gloomy and shrouded in shadow. Even the big confrontation between Jurrasic World 3's T-Rex and the Giganotosaurus is largely in silhouette and lacking in up-close, well-lit detail. For a sequence playing on a huge, high-definition IMAX screen, the darkness is a bit unexpected. Thankfully, all it takes to understand why the scene is so dark is a brief look behind the scenes. The likely culprit? CGI masking.


It's no secret that creating the photorealistic, highly detailed animation seen in modern blockbuster movies is both time-consuming and expensive, requiring huge budgets and a talented crew to properly create. Crafting the amazing visuals seen in everything from the MCU films to Jurassic World and its sequels can take months of hard work and a great deal of money, and given the turnaround time required to finish the visual effects for so many movies, shortcuts are a common and often necessary part of the job. This is where CGI masking comes into play. One of the main reasons why so many films with computer-generated characters include darker scenes that take place in low light is because these dark environments can easily mask less detailed CGI. If a character model is less believable or features rougher animation, these issues can more easily be hidden by environmental factors like darkness, rain, or smoke. When done correctly, this approach is barely noticeable by the audience, and can cut back on both time and money for the production.

CGI masking is definitely a part of many big movies like the Jurassic World series, but it's also fairly common in movie trailers. Sometimes, in order to have a trailer ready to debut to the public, the visual effects team will use masking and other visual shortcuts to create passable visuals that might not represent what the finished product will look like. In many cases, CGI-heavy trailer scenes that feature darker or less-detailed imagery are dramatically improved for the finished film This may very well be the case for Jurassic World: Dominion and its dinosaur stars; when the film opens in 2022, it's entirely possible that the 65-million-year flashback sequence will be brighter and more detailed. With the new teaser having done its job and created a new surge of hype for the Jurassic World sequel, the visual effects team can now spend the next year working hard to make the scene even better for its final release.


Jurassic World 3's Drive-In Scene Is A Throwback Moment To Classic Horror

Friday, June 25, 2021

The new extended look at Jurassic World 3 includes a bizarre sequence involving a T-Rex and a drive-in theater that references classic horror.

Jurassic World: Dominion's new extended preview has revealed a bizarre scene involving a T-Rex and a drive-in theater that references classic horror. The preview was recently released as a special event during IMAX screenings of F9 and provided dino-loving audiences with a first extensive look at the Jurassic World sequel. While much of the hype surrounding the preview is focused on its unprecedented 65-million-year dinosaur flashback sequence and its first glimpses of the human characters, the sneak peek at the film's drive-in theater scene provides a look at what will likely be one of the film's most fun and memorable moments.

In the sequence, the camera pans over an outdoor gathering of cars in front of a giant movie screen. As the screen plays a classic ad for theater concessions, the ground begins to shake. The familiar shadow of a gigantic beast falls over the interior of an empty car, and the sounds of panic and fear begin to drown out the song playing on the screen. Finally, the projector's light illuminates the body of the iconic T-Rex from the original Jurassic Park. As the creature makes its way through the drive-in lot, chaos ensues. Cars are flipped over and crushed, the projector is destroyed, and people flee for their lives as the T-Rex lets loose a powerful roar.

Despite only being a brief glimpse at what will surely be a longer sequence, this sneak peek at the film's drive-in scene is both thrilling and exciting—however, it's also a bit unusual. The idea of a massive T-Rex managing to sneak right in front of a movie screen without being noticed by anyone doesn't make a lot of sense, and the setting of a drive-in movie theater is also unusual. So what's the story behind this scene, and what purpose does it serve in the movie? The answer to those questions is simple: the scene is a fun throwback moment to the classic horror films of yesteryear.

Back in the 1950s and 1960s, drive-in movie theaters were incredibly popular. Many sci-fi and horror films of the time were made specifically to be shown at these outdoor venues, and even films that played in traditional indoor theaters placed extra emphasis on interactivity and emersion. Films like 1965's Monsters Crash the Pajama Party featured moments where the film's mutant monster would seem to emerge from the theater screen before running past audience members in an attempt to frighten them. The effect involved little more than actors in cheap gorilla costumes grabbing people's shoulders, but the results were still memorable. The idea of a monster emerging from or through a theater screen soon became a trope, and before too long, it was being referenced in later films. 1993's The Sandlot famously features the film's antagonist, a giant dog known as "the Beast," crashing through a theater screen showing the 1941 horror classic The Wolf Man. Even 1996's Twister featured the film's titular force of nature ripping through a drive-in screen showing The Shining.

It's no secret that the Jurassic Park franchise owes a lot to classic creature features. Steven Spielberg has openly cited the old-school Godzilla films and the dinosaur movies of Ray Harryhausen as influences on the series, while Michael Crichton admitted that two drive-in dinosaur films were inspirations for the original Jurassic Park books. With all of this taken into account, it's easy to see the bizarre drive-in theater scene from the new Jurassic World: Dominion preview is actually a loving homage to the genres that inspired the franchise.

Even the two movies featured at the drive-in's double-bill are proof of this: Flash Gordon is a cult classic with all the hallmarks of a drive-in film, and American Graffiti was the first mainstream success from longtime Spielberg friend/collaborator, George Lucas. It's obvious that a great deal of thought went into this sequence, and if the rest of Jurassic World: Dominion features this same amount of care and fun, audiences will be in for a highly entertaining ride when the film hits theaters next year.


How Jurassic World 3 Can Have Feathered Dinosaurs Without Creating A Plot Hole

Thursday, June 24, 2021

Jurassic World 3 shows dinosaurs with feathers; however, this isn't a plot hole since Jurassic Park established that frog DNA was used to clone them.

A flashback sequence in Jurassic World: Dominion shows dinosaurs with distinct feathers, which contradicts their appearance in the rest of the franchise; however, this isn't a plot hole: the explanation was provided in the original movie, Jurassic Park. Director Colin Trevorrow's film nods to Jurassic Park with a scene that takes place back when dinosaurs roamed the Earth, showing a mosquito landing on a T-rex before getting trapped in amber. It's a moment that references where it all started — but with one major change: the feathers.

The first preview for Jurassic World: Dominion appears as an exclusive before IMAX showings of Fast & Furious 9. The extended clip features a flashback to the dinosaurs' origins, 65 000 000 years ago. Fans of the Jurassic franchise will have noticed one significant difference: some of these dinosaurs are covered in feathers, unlike the more lizard-like versions first introduced by Jurassic Park. It's a stylistic choice that fits the established scientific beliefs regarding what some dinosaurs looked like, and serves as a reminder that these ancient creatures were the predecessors of modern-day birds.

Although this may appear to be a plot hole, the feathered dinosaurs in the Jurassic World 3 preview can be explained through the franchise's established history. In Jurassic Park, John Hammond shows the park visitors an informational video that explains how the dinosaurs were cloned using blood preserved in amber. The genetic information isn't complete, however, so InGen's scientists used frog DNA to fill in the gaps.

Since the dinosaurs in Jurassic World were presumably cloned using the same process seen in Jurassic Park, it stands to reason that having frog DNA would alter their appearance. Perhaps the reason why the dinosaurs don't have visible feathers is because of that amphibian DNA — the very same DNA that allowed the creatures to switch genders in order to reproduce. Showing the original dinosaurs with feathers in the past allows Jurassic World 3 to acknowledge one of the biggest problems in the franchise while maintaining (and honoring) the established mythology.

It was a conscious choice not to give dinosaurs feathers in Jurassic Park. By the time the movie debuted in 1993, dinosaurs were known to be evolutionarily linked to birds — Alan Grant even mentions as much in the movie. The reason why the dinosaurs didn't have feathers in Jurassic Park was both practical and narrative. Although Spielberg was aware that the velociraptors, for example, should have feathers, Spielberg chose to go for a more classic look, believing the more lizard-like style was more terrifying. Plus, given the technology of the time, it would have been very difficult to animate the feathers in CGI.

There actually is some precedence for dinosaurs in Jurassic Park: the third movie in the franchise, Jurassic Park III experimented with the concept by giving the velociraptors quill-like feathers on the top of their heads. Jurassic World reverting to the classic design, however — a smart choice given how iconic the original designs are. Most likely, the final movie in the Jurassic World trilogy will show the cloned dinosaurs without feathers, but it may confirm that the appearance is different from the creatures that walked the Earth millions of years ago.


Ancient Woodlice Cousins Lived in Ireland 360 Million Years Ago

Thursday, June 24, 2021

Oxyuropoda ligioides in its 365-million-year-old continental environment (Kiltorcan, Kilkenny, Ireland). Image credit: Diane Dabir Moghaddam.

Paleontologists have performed a complete re-analysis of Oxyuropoda ligioides, a land-based peracarid crustacean first reported in 1908 from the Late Devonian floodplains of Ireland and left with unresolved systematic affinities despite a century of attempts at identification.

Woodlice and their relatives form a group of crustaceans named peracarids that are as species-rich as the more famous group comprising krill, crabs and shrimps named eucarids,” said Dr. Ninon Robin, a postdoctoral researcher at University College Cork.

“From their ancestral marine habitat some peracarids have, unlike eucarids, evolved fully terrestrial ground-crawling ecologies, inhabiting even commonly our gardens, for example pillbugs and sowbugs, which are very common in Ireland.”

In the study, Dr. Robin and her colleagues analyzed the anatomy of Oxyuropoda ligioides, which is known from a single specimen preserved in two dimensions, using digital microscopy and multispectral macroimaging to enhance the contrast of morphological structures.

3D rendering of Oxyuropoda ligioides obtained using digital microscopy. Image credit: N. Robin.

“Our work advances science’s understanding of when land-dwelling species of crustaceans roamed the Earth, and what they looked like,” Dr. Robin said.

“Using new modern imaging techniques, we determined that Oxyuropoda ligioides was actually a peracarid crustacean, even the oldest known one; which supports the theory that woodlice cousins were already crawling on Irish lands at that very early time, 360 million years ago.”

“From previous genomic and molecular studies, scientists had suggested that this group of crustaceans must have appeared around 450 million years ago.”

“However, their fossils were very rare in the Paleozoic era, which was 560-250 million years ago, so we had no idea at all how they looked at that time, nor if they were marine or yet terrestrial.”

“Our work is an advance in the field of the evolution of invertebrate animals, especially crustaceans, and in our knowledge of the timing of their colonization of land.”

The new results were published in the journal Biology Letters.


N. Robin et al. 2021. The oldest peracarid crustacean reveals a Late Devonian freshwater colonization by isopod relatives. Biol. Lett 17 (6): 20210226; doi: 10.1098/rsbl.2021.0226



Giant Meteorite Landed in Ukraine 650,000 Years after Dinosaur-Killing Chicxulub Event

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

A part of the Boltysh impact structure near the village of Bovtyshka in Kivorohrads’ka oblast, Ukraine. Image credit: Wisetus / CC BY-SA 4.0.

About 66 million years ago, a 10-km- (6.2-mile) wide asteroid crashed into Earth near the site of the small town of Chicxulub in what is now Mexico. While this impact is firmly linked to the end-Cretaceous extinction of non-avian dinosaurs and 75% of life on the planet, the temporal relationship of the lesser-known Boltysh impact structure in Ukraine to these events is uncertain, although it is thought to have occurred 2,000 to 5,000 years before the mass extinction. A new study, published in the journal Science Advances, shows that the Boltysh impact occurred 650,000 years after the end-Cretaceous mass extinction; at that time, the climate was recovering from the effects of the Chicxulub impact and Deccan Trap volcanism.

The Boltysh impact structure is approximately 24 km (15 miles) in diameter with a 6-km- (3.7-mile) diameter central uplift.

Located in Kivorohrads’ka oblast, Ukraine, the structure is now buried beneath over 500 m (1,640 feet) of post-impact sediments.

Previous analysis of samples from Boltysh, undertaken decades ago, suggested that the meteorite may have struck the Earth between 2,000 and 5,000 years before the Chicxulub asteroid.

The Chicxulub impact is widely believed to have caused the mass extinction event which made non-avian dinosaurs extinct, and the climate event which created the geological signature known as the Cretaceous-Paleogene boundary.

However, questions still remained over whether the Boltysh impact might have occurred close enough in time to have had an effect on both.

The new analysis suggests that, in fact, the Boltysh impact happened around 650,000 years after the Chicxulub event.

“The results allow us to place the Boltysh impact more accurately in our timeline of what happened to the Earth in the period after the end-Cretaceous mass extinction event, and better understand our deep geological history,” said Dr. Annemarie Pickersgill, a researcher in the School of Geographical and Earth Sciences at the University of Glasgow.

To determine the date of the Boltysh impact more precisely than ever before, Dr. Pickersgill and colleagues selected four samples from two rock cores taken from the Boltysh crater, containing rocks generated during the impact event and lake sediments which accumulated over time after the crater was formed.

They determined the age of the samples using the argon-argon dating facility.

Argon-argon dating measures the radioactive decay of potassium to argon. The level of decay acts as a ‘rock clock’, which ticks down over geological time and allows researchers today to determine when the rocks were created during the Boltysh impact event.

“Our analysis suggests that the impact occurred very close to 65.39 million years ago,” Dr. Pickersgill said.

“That puts it firmly after the Chicxulub impact and the formation of the Cretaceous-Paleogene boundary, evidence for which is found in geological records around the world.”

The researchers draw links for the first time between the new dating of the Boltysh impact and evidence for a known ‘hyperthermal’ event found in the Earth’s sediment record, a period of extreme global heating called the lower C29N hyperthermal.

At that time in Earth’s history, volcanoes in India known as the Deccan Traps were releasing vast amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, accelerating a period of global climate change.

“Paleoclimatology aims to help us understand and adapt to today’s changing climate by studying how our atmosphere responded to environmental stresses in the past,” Dr. Pickersgill said.

“Being able to link the Boltysh lake sediments to the lower C29N hyperthermal is another piece of the jigsaw which will form a clearer picture of how our planet has responded to climate change in the past.”


Annemarie E. Pickersgill et al. 2021. The Boltysh impact structure: An early Danian impact event during recovery from the K-Pg mass extinction. Science Advances 7 (25): eabe6530; doi: 10.1126/sciadv.abe6530