The Dino-Sized Scientific Issues Behind 'Jurassic Park'

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Dinosaurs make for great suspense films, but don't rely on their science.

This article, along with others celebrating the 25th anniversary of the groundbreaking franchise, is featured in Newsweek's Special Edition: Jurassic Park

Bigger and badder? 

It was cool to see Jurassic Park’s biggest monster taken out by a larger dino in the third installment (pictured above). But Jurassic Park III’s Spinosaurus would have probably lost the fight. Although it’s much bigger, the Spinosaurus’s jaw was meant to catch fish, while the T. rex had a 12,000-pound bite force intended to down larger prey.

Bugging out

Extracting complete DNA from mosquitos would have been impossible because DNA does not stay intact for millions of years. Mosquitos were buzzing around 170 million years ago when dinos were still around, but there’s a problem with the particular species shown in the movie: The Toxorhynchites rutilusdoesn’t feed on blood.

A question of ratios

When Grant et al. first take in the splendor of Jurassic Park, a Brachiosaurus is depicted standing on its hind legs in order to reach leaves. Based on its anatomy, supporting its enormous weight in this manner would have been impossible. It’s also endearing to see one of these massive creatures sneeze, but as far as scientists know, dinosaurs didn’t say “Achoo!”

Move a muscle 

Even if the T. rex did have motion-based vision—all signs point to this not being the case—the dino’s sense of smell was likely so strong that standing still and hoping to go unnoticed would have been a fatal mistake.

Giant continuity issue 

The T. rex, Velociraptor and many of the other prominent dinosaurs came from the late Cretaceous rather than the Jurassic Period, making the name of the park the first of its foibles.

What a load of... 

The pile of Triceratops droppings depicted in Jurassic Park was about the size of an actual Triceratops. Dinosaurs were impressive, but no creature can make that happen.


Though Lex claims to be a vegetarian, she is also memorably seen eating Jell-O, which contains gelatin, an animal byproduct.

Dinos gotta eat! 

The first clue in Jurassic Park that something is amiss comes when an extinct plant makes an appearance in the Jurassic Park tour. It’s a nice cinematic device, but no one ever actually explains how the InGen scientists gathered or replicated extinct plant DNA.

Quiet dinos bite hard 

The T. rex makes a very imposing entrance in Jurassic Park, but experts believe the lizard king would have actually been a sneaky predator rather than one who relied on intimidation.

Snafu in paradise 

None of the Dominican Republic’s amber is old enough to have existed during the time of the dinosaurs, yet the Caribbean country is stated as the source of InGen’s amber.

Size matters 

Real life velociraptors were about the size of turkeys. Jurassic Park’s terrifying raptors have more in common with the Deinonychus.


Frog DNA, used in the film, would actually be a terrible choice to fill in the dinosaurs’ genetic gaps. Humans and dinosaurs are more closely related than dinos and frogs.