Author: Molly (Jurassic Propositions)
“Jurassic Park” revolutionized how the public understood, imagined and investigated dinosaurs unlike any mass-media production ever before. This Crichton/Spielberg classic opens our eyes to another world, and for the most part, is highly scientifically accurate. However, after taking this class we can especially appreciate some of the unique misconceptions that made it onto the silver screen, either because of increased dramatic effect, advances in the field, or just plain ignorance. This short paper will discuss some of the key problems with several of the dinosaurs that are major players throughout the movie, and integrate information learned from this course and the readings to support why changes should be made for enhanced scientific accuracy.
In one of the opening scenes when the crew of professionals enters Jurassic Park, the first dinosaur we see is a brachiosaurus. These sauropods were enormous in size, causing their spread metatarsals to create plantigrade pes and digitigrade manus in order to distribute their weight evenly. One issue with this first dinosaur spotting is that the angle of the elongated neck seems a little too close to vertical, whereas in real life the species would have a more horizontal posture. Such a neck posture would require a much larger heart in order to efficiently pump blood up the neck and circulate throughout the body. It’s hypothesized that a Brachiosaurus would have its tail extended outwards without dragging, in order to counter balance the weight of the elongated neck.
Another correction that could be noted is the manner in which the Brachiosaurus is chewing. In the film, the jaw movements are very similar to that of a cow with a flexible jaw joint that has increased range of motion around, unlike the actual species. We discussed how to aid digestions, many sauropods swallowed gastroliths , or stomach stones, but these species still used their teeth to sheer and crop herbivorous material before swallowing for digestion. The manner in which the brachiosaurus in the movie reached several branches to eat can also be challenged. We know that these sauropods had obligate quadruped posture, but there is some discussion in the field surrounding the ability to transition into the tripod-like posture for grazing. However, the brachiosaurus had shorter forelimbs than hind limbs, inhibiting them from being able to reach high speeds, and possibly contributing to, along with their massive size, their quadrupedal positioning.
One of the next dinosaurs we are introduced to in the film and that continues to play a large role in the development of the plot is the Velociraptor. The first inaccuracy evident with the Velociraptor is the depiction of its size. The fossil record suggests that they would only be 1-2 meters long, whereas in the film the species were more closely sized similar to Deinonychus, a close relative that would grow to be closer to 3 meters long. In addition to size, the Velociraptor should have been depicted with feathers covering its body and fully developed wings, as this trait was obtained in the more basal saurischian, the coelurosauria. Another issue regarding the movement of the Velociraptor includes issues of its tail movement. Probably as a means for increased Hollywood drama, in many of the “chase” or “fight” scenes (if that’s possible with dinosaurs), the tail of the Velociraptor moves more than it would have been able due to stiffened vertebrae in the distal half of the tail.
Last but not least, the infamous T. rex has several issues with its depiction in the film. Similar to the Velociraptor, the Tyrannosaurus should have been depicted with feather-like coating, although some fossil records reveal mosaic scales, thus causing an issue with how a Tyrannosaurus would actually appear.
Another issue that has been especially stressed in this course is how in the film, the relaxed state of the hands in a “puppy” like manor with weakened wrists and palms facing down, is completely incorrect. While resting, the manus should be depicted perpendicular to the ground, unlike in the movie.
Overall, these issues could be edited to enhance the scientific validity of the film, but personally, I wonder why when Newman is stealing the embryos, Jurassic Park misspelled Stegosaurus as “Stegasaurus,” and how can it be possible for John Hammond’s accent to start out as Scottish in the beginning of the movie and then gradually phase into generic British? Absurd.
Jurassic Propositions features short essays by students from the University of Chicago’s Dinosaur Science class, which is taught by paleontologist Dr. Paul Sereno. Sereno’s Teaching Assistant, Sara ElShafie, asked the students to act as scientific consultants to the Jurassic Park filmmakers, addressing inaccuracies in the previous films and suggesting ideas or improvements for the next sequel.
The filmmakers want to make sure their treatment is scientifically sound and current. In light of discoveries since 1993, what inaccuracies from the previous films would you ask them to modify? Consider the concepts we’ve discussed in class in your evaluation of the films.
; Zhou Zhonghe, Wang Xiaolin, Kuang Xuewen, Zhang Fucheng & Du Xiangke (2003). “Four-winged dinosaurs from China”. Nature 421 (421): 335–340. doi:10.1038/nature01342.
Paul, Gregory S. (2008). “The extreme lifestyles and habits of the gigantic tyrannosaurid superpredators of the Late Cretaceous of North America and Asia”. in Carpenter, Kenneth; and Larson, Peter E. (editors). Tyrannosaurus rex, the Tyrant King (Life of the Past). Bloomington: Indiana University Press. p. 316.