10 Things Jurassic Park Gets Completely Wrong About Dinosaurs
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. Here’s all the things that Jurassic Park gets completely wrong about dinosaurs.
10 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. As we know, 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.
9 DILOPHOSAURUS HAD NO NECK FAN OR VENOM
An iconic and enduring symbol of the harrowing dangers of Jurassic Park, the dilophosaurus, with its multi-colored neck fan and ability to spit venom to blind its victims was almost entirely a complete fabrication. No fossil evidence had shown that the dilophosaurus had any such fan, though it did have a ridge of feathers down the back of its head.
When Jurassic Park was being made, there was a carnivore who’s 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.
8 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.
7 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 the version of the raptors we see in the film is a far cry from the real ones that existed in prehistoric times.
For one thing, Velociraptors were much smaller than you’d expect, about the size of a Thanksgiving turkey. You could have drop kicked one into the Cretaceous if you wanted to. 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.
6 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.
We now know that a T-Rex has a running speed of only about half that, or even 15 mph. They often didn’t need to go any faster because the herbivores they were snacking on were quite lumbering as well. This means you were SOL on foot, but in a car, could easily get away from one.
5 A MOSASAUR AND A T-REX WERE THE SAME SIZE
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.
4 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 we could extract Dino DNA 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?
3 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.
2 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. We’re talking a massive pile that’s taller than her and Ian Malcom, 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.
1 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.