By How It Works magazine, Ailsa Harvey
Advances in science could make it possible to bring the dinosaurs back to life.
Welcome to Jurassic Park. As we open the gates to this zoo of previously extinct creatures, how would you expect the dinosaurs behind them to look? For those who have read or watched "Jurassic Park," the image of a dinosaur may have already been planted in your mind. Your perception might be plagued by the gruesome scenes of park rangers becoming easy meals, or the film's iconic theme tune might resonate in your head as you envision herds of long-necked beasts parading across the land. With great species diversity, the thrill of this dinosaur park cannot be denied. But can a Jurassic Park really happen?
When Michael Crichton first conceived the "Jurassic Park (opens in new tab)" story in the late 1980s, one of the last things he wrote was perhaps the most significant. How would the scientists in the story obtain the DNA needed to create a theme park of dinosaurs? This would be the key to the entire plot, giving the story a feeling of scientific realism. Eventually, Crichton was inspired by a scientific paper he read, according to an interview with paleobiologist George Poinar, Jr. in an interview with Science Friday (opens in new tab).
The paper, published in the journal Science (opens in new tab) in 1982, referenced a fly that had been found preserved inside hardened tree resin. Somehow, at the end of its life, the fly had ended up submerged in this resin time capsule. This was not just the stroke of genius that led to the creation of this fictional land, but a real-life discovery. Together the story of "Jurassic Park" and the science at the center of the tale would inspire the next generation of paleontologists, opening the world's imagination to dinosaurs (opens in new tab).
What might fascinate people most about dinosaurs is the multitude of unanswered questions, with only hints at their dominance before our time. What did dinosaurs really look like, and how did their unique appendages assist them as they scoured the land in diverse groups?
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As humans have never lived alongside dinosaurs, nobody holds the answers to some of the questions. We continue to learn more about dinosaurs as scientists uncover and research more and more fossils. Scientists have now discovered more than 700 dinosaur species worldwide.
Scientists are now working on reversing extinction by bringing animals that vanished from Earth long ago back into our lives. By editing the genetic code in the DNA of extinct animals' closest living relatives, scientists can slowly build backwards and manipulate a model of the species' DNA. One of the most high-profile cases involves the woolly mammoth, which died out around 4,000 years ago. Mammoth DNA is preserved in the frozen soil of Siberia, so scientists are working on a project to combine these fragments of genetic code with that of living elephants. There might be thousands of years separating these species — and over 60 million years for dinosaurs — but if scientists are successful in producing these extinct species, it could be a stepping stone toward the beginning of a true Jurassic Park.
Have we found dinosaur DNA?
The biggest hurdle to overcome before we can create a dinosaur park is how to source the main ingredient. Without access to dinosaur DNA, researchers can't clone true dinosaurs. New fossils (opens in new tab) are being uncovered from the ground every day. However, while this can provide important evidence of a species' form, its organic material has long since disappeared. Instead of bone, dinosaur fossils consist of rock and sediment that has filled the bone's place. While these clues can tell us about a specimen's shape and size, the time it was alive and any unique features the animal had, they are unable to give us the crucial genetic information.
In 2020, researchers from the U.S. and China discovered cartilage that they believe contains dinosaur DNA, according to a study published in the journal National Service Review (opens in new tab). Many paleontologists are skeptical about this claim, as it is widely believed to be impossible for the protein in these molecules to survive for millions of years, according to an article published in The Conversation (opens in new tab). The cartilage, from the Hypacrosaurus species of the Cretaceous Period (opens in new tab), is over 70 million years old but has been calcified and fossilized, which may have protected the inside of the cells.
Could we create a dinosaur?
So, will it ever be possible to bring a dinosaur back from extinction? It's something that scientists are trying to work out, although the process would be quite different to how it's portrayed in the movies. "We think we have found signals for DNA and that there might be tiny bits left, but not enough to use to make a dinosaur. We can get collagen and some dinosaur proteins, but not all the material we need," paleontologist Jack Horner told How It Works magazine (opens in new tab). "If we had the DNA, it would be ridiculous to put it in an ostrich egg. The thing to do would be to grow it in a test tube, because we have no idea how big the embryos of all dinosaurs are. Some dinosaur eggs are the size of ostrich eggs, but for a Tyrannosaur, we think they are a lot longer and they're bigger. It's like thinking about putting a human embryo inside a squirrel."
Horner is the real paleontologist who inspired the character of Alan Grant in "Jurassic Park." Since finding his first dinosaur bone at the age of 8, Horner has dug up the first dinosaur embryos, the first dinosaur eggs in the Western world, and discovered and named the dinosaur species Maiasaura. He was also the palaeontology consultant for the "Jurassic Park" films. And while he deems the cloning process pure fiction, it hasn't stopped Horner from trying to bring back the dinosaurs.
"I actually have a laboratory where we are attempting to figure out how to make a dinosaur," he told How It Works, a sister site of Live Science. "It's called the dino-chicken project, and it's mostly based on genetic engineering. The idea is to use atavistic genes. They are basically ancestral genes, meaning that ancestral animals programmed certain features. For instance, occasionally children are born with extra vertebrae and form a low tail, which the doctor just picks off when the child is born. And every once in a while snakes are born with little appendages."
Horner's plan is to take advantage of these atavistic genes. "I was hoping that some of the features of a dinosaur were atavistic in a bird. All bird species are related to one another, with one common ancestor — dinosaurs — so any bird should work. Chickens are the easiest thing to get eggs from, so I built a laboratory, hired some geneticists and developmental biologists and started seeing if we could find some of these potential atavistic genes," he said.
"We've been working on the tail, mostly, because that seems to be the hardest part," he added. "We discovered that the reduction of the tail from long-tail dinosaur to a short-tail bird is not an atavistic gene. We are trying to figure out how the tail actually works and reverse the process that formed the short tail."
So, are we any closer to making a dinosaur? "Other laboratories have looked at the face, teeth, arms and hands. I think we can do pretty much all the rest of the body. We have the potential of making an animal that has a dinosaur-like head, probably with teeth in it, and we certainly have the capability of reversing the wings to make arms and hands. We know we can do that, but right now we're just trying to fix the tail," Horner said.
Living with dinosaurs
If humans did succeed in bringing dinosaurs back from extinction, how would we coexist? If dinosaurs hadn't gone extinct, humans are unlikely to have been able to evolve. During the 150 million years that dinosaurs existed, mammals lived alongside them, but these animals were nocturnal and lived in burrows. This suggests that this was the only way for mammals to thrive alongside dinosaurs, emerging mainly at night to hunt. Because our lives are completely separate to that of dinosaurs, there's no way of knowing what would happen if dinosaurs were to live on the same land as us.
By observing human behavior with today's large predators, it seems unlikely that the two species would live naturally together. Humans take up so much space on the planet that introducing predators like dinosaurs outside of captivity would likely result in a battle for land.
Horner, however, has a different view. “People always say, 'Where are you going to put these dinosaurs when you make them?' and I always say that many thousands of years ago we started with wolves, and now we have chihuahuas,” he said. “Dogs are basically wolves, and we don't really have to contain them. I wouldn't expect dino-chickens to be the same as the dinosaurs in “Jurassic Park.” They're going to be domestic animals that we don't have to worry about. If you were cloning a real Tyrannosaur, you would have to worry about containing them. Dogs and cats were wild, but now we don't have to contain them — not to the point of making a park anyway.”
Even if the problem of recreating a dinosaur was overcome, could we keep them alive? Some studies of air trapped in amber show that its composition during the Cretaceous Period may have been 35% oxygen, as opposed to 21% today, according to New Scientist (opens in new tab). However, during the dinosaurs' extended time on the planet, this number is believed to have varied substantially. Some species would therefore be better suited to our air than others.
It's also been determined that when dinosaurs roamed the Earth, the global temperature would have been much higher than it is today, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (opens in new tab). An island in a tropical region of the globe would be the best bet to provide temperatures that many dinosaurs would be comfortable living in.
And as far as containing them is concerned, the park would need to look quite different to how it appears in the film. “If you really, seriously want to build a Jurassic Park and are not just making a movie, you want walls around the dinosaurs to keep them in.” Horner told How It Works. “Reinforced concrete is going to work a lot better than electric fences, because electricity can go out. Electric fences were not a very good idea.”
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How much would it cost to build a real Jurassic Park? ›
The Jurassic Park Islands
The latter is where John Hammond's InGen sets the factory floor for cloning and raising dinosaurs until they are fit to be moved to the main park in Isla Nublar. According to Costa Rican real estate websites, the two islands together would be worth $10,000,000,000.
Dig up a fossil today, and any dino-DNA within would have long since fallen apart. That means, as far as scientists know, and even using the best technology available today, it's not possible to make a dinosaur from its DNA.Is Jurassic Park cloning possible? ›
Try 3 issues of BBC Science Focus Magazine for £5! Jurassic Park had some lofty ambitions, but in reality cloning even a recently extinct animal is much more problematic than it sounds. The oldest DNA fragments recovered are only 800,000 years old, so dinosaur cloning is probably impossible.How far are we from bringing back dinosaurs? ›
Even with new collection technologies, under the best possible conditions, the limit of DNA survival is perhaps 1 million years. The last of the dinosaurs went extinct 65 million years ago, so Jurassic Park likely won't become a reality anytime soon.Can you survive 10,000 volts Jurassic Park? ›
The electric fences required at least 10,000 volts of voltage to contain the dinosaurs properly, this is an assumption, as mention is made about whether or not direct current or alternating current was used. Also, it should be noted that it is in fact amperage, not voltage, that can lead to death by electrocution.How much will it cost to bring back dinosaurs? ›
Research and development towards dinosaur cloning is estimated to have been $25.4 million, whereas the creation of the monstrous animals themselves would be $8.5 million, based on the prices of dog cloning companies in California, adjusted to that of a dinosaur.Could we ever bring back dinosaurs? ›
Unfortunately, dinosaurs probably cannot be cloned and brought back to life. Their DNA is too old since dinosaurs have been extinct for over 65 million years. Any genetic information is not likely to survive for one million years, so the dinosaurs are simply too old to be cloned.Are scientists really trying to bring back dinosaurs? ›
No, scientists aren't proposing reviving dinosaurs — yet — but they are hoping to bring back other lumbering beasts from a bygone era using “de-extinction” technology. Evolutionary researcher David A. Duchene tells Inverse that we won't be visiting a real-life Jurassic Park anytime soon.Why can't we recreate dinosaurs? ›
Bottom line: We can't recreate dinosaurs from their DNA because the DNA no longer exists. DNA disintegrates in about 7 million years, and dinosaurs lived 65 million years ago.Can dinosaurs come back in 2050? ›
The dinosaurs went extinct around 66 million years ago and with so much time having passed it is very unlikely that any dinosaur DNA would remain today. While dinosaur bones can survive for millions of years, dinosaur DNA almost certainly does not.
Do humans have dinosaur DNA? ›
From our knowledge of the theory of Evolution, we know that all life is related and that all animals came from a common ancestor. This also means that we share our DNA with other organisms including dinosaurs.
In an evolutionary sense, birds are a living group of dinosaurs because they descended from the common ancestor of all dinosaurs. Other than birds, however, there is no scientific evidence that any dinosaurs, such as Tyrannosaurus, Velociraptor, Apatosaurus, Stegosaurus, or Triceratops, are still alive.Has any extinct animal been cloned? ›
In 2003, researchers used cloning to bring back the bucardo, a species of wild goat, using a modern goat as a surrogate parent and egg donor. The baby bucardo, the only extinct species to ever be cloned, died after only seven minutes because of a lung malformation.Why can't we clone humans? ›
1 No one has ever cloned a human being, though scientists have cloned animals other than Dolly, including dogs, pigs, cows, horses and cats. Part of the reason is that cloning can introduce profound genetic errors, which can result in early and painful death.Is it possible to clone a human being? ›
Despite several highly publicized claims, human cloning still appears to be fiction. There currently is no solid scientific evidence that anyone has cloned human embryos.At what voltage can you feel a shock? ›
The human body feels a shock when the voltage is higher than about 3,500 volts. Walking over a carpet can generate 35,000 volts. The Electrostatic Discharge (ESD) from this voltage can cause pain. The discharge is not life threatening but it still hurts.Is 10000 volts painful? ›
Dr. Michael S. Morse, a professor of electrical engineering at the University of San Diego, explains that while 10,000 volts can be life threatening in certain circumstances, it's possible for something to have 10,000 volts behind it and be relatively harmless.How many volts can Spiderman take? ›
If he has some internal non-conducting membranes to separate his charges, if you over-volted him, you could blow holes in his membrane, and he wouldn't be able to hold a charge anymore. He probably is 10 million volts himself, so you'd need 100 million volts to short him out.What extinct animals are coming back? ›
Cheetahs, wild bison, vultures and black-footed ferrets are among the species being reintroduced to lands that lost them. Life on Earth is as much under threat from the loss of species and habitats as it is from climate change, says WWF.Do you get paid if you find dinosaur bones? ›
Private citizens are allowed to collect these "for personal use in reasonable quantities" on federal land without a permit. However, any fossils taken from federally owned rock "may not be bartered or sold" later.
How much is a dinosaur skull worth? ›
A Tyrannosaurus rex tooth? More than $100,000. In a booming market for dinosaur fossils, Sotheby's estimated that a T. rex skull it was auctioning would fetch between $15 million and $20 million.Would humans exist if dinosaurs didn't go extinct? ›
"If dinosaurs didn't go extinct, mammals probably would've remained in the shadows, as they had been for over a hundred million years," says Brusatte. "Humans, then, probably would've never been here."Will scientists bring back dodos? ›
It's not possible to bring back the dodo, even if it becomes possible to build a bird with a dodo genome. Beyond behavior, the dodo proxy must survive in a world that is significantly different from that of more than 300 years ago, when the dodo went extinct.Can humans bring back extinct animals? ›
However, despite our many achievements in the realm of genetic engineering, one thing we're still working on is bringing extinct animals back to life. But scientists are working on it. In fact, there's a whole field of biology that's focused on reviving extinct species.Would the dinosaurs have eaten us if we were alive at the same time? ›
T. rex surely would have been able to eat people. There are fossil bite marks, matching the teeth of T. rex, on the bones of Triceratops and duck-billed dinosaurs such as Edmontosaurus, which were both over 50 times heavier than an average person.How long does DNA last? ›
The molecule of life has a lifespan of its own. A study of DNA extracted from the leg bones of extinct moa birds in New Zealand found that the half-life of DNA is 521 years. So every 1,000 years, 75 per cent of the genetic information is lost. After 6.8 million years, every single base pair is gone.How long can DNA survive in a fossil? ›
“DNA survives a maximum of one to 1.5 million years, so forget about dinosaurs!” says Llamas. To date, the oldest DNA found and extracted was from mammoth specimen that was potentially up to 1.6 million years old.Are scientists trying to bring back Megalodon? ›
No. There is no evidence that scientists are currently trying to bring back the megalodon. In fact, it's doubtful that they ever will. This is because the megalodon went extinct millions of years ago.How much would a real dinosaur cost? ›
|1.. “Stan”, T-Rex||$31.8 Million|
|2. “Hector”, Velociraptor||$12.4 Million|
|3. “Sue”, T-Rex||$8.3 Million|
|4. “Big John”, Triceratops||$7.2 Million|
Who owns the original Jurassic Park? ›
Who owns Jurassic Park? For film and TV purposes, it's Universal and Spielberg's Amblin Entertainment with its ET logo. For theme park purposes, the rights to the Jurassic Park franchise and the characters and themes from the Jurassic World movies belong to Universal Orlando.How much did it cost to make Cowboys vs Dinosaurs? ›
They apparently took the script from Cowboys & Aliens (itself pretty uninspired), changed a few words, and presto. Take away the 160 million dollar budget and good actors and there you have it; Cowboys vs Dinosaurs.Will we ever find dinosaur DNA? ›
This suggested that these bones were not 90 million years old since the half-life for these biomolecules is, at max, about 1 million years. Incredibly, scientists have now found original dinosaur DNA and chromosomes!Would humans be able to live with dinosaurs? ›
It's impossible. The DNA has changed so much, even just in the 68 million years, since teeth were lost in the, you know, living bird lineage of dinosaurs, cause teeth were actually lost in dinosaurs, like at least a dozen times. And the beak was evolved, you know, teeth lost really beak evolved many times.How much is a real T. rex skull worth? ›
A Tyrannosaurus rex tooth? More than $100,000. In a booming market for dinosaur fossils, Sotheby's estimated that a T. rex skull it was auctioning would fetch between $15 million and $20 million.How much did Chris Pratt get paid for Jurassic World? ›
Four years ago, Variety reported that both actors scored big pay rises for Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, the 2018 sequel to the smash-hit reboot of the franchise. According to the report, Howard was paid $8 million for Fallen Kingdom—20% less than Pratt's $10 million paycheck.Is Isla Nublar real? ›
Isla del Coco (aka Isla Nublar)
As a registered UNESCO World Heritage Site, the actual island is pretty restricted for tourists and the greatest level of respect is requested. Cocos Island has been called the Galapagos Islands of Costa Rica. The dense, feral jungles house caverns, waterfalls and rare animals species.
The Jurassic Park franchise is also one of the highest-grossing film series of all time, having earned over $6 billion at the worldwide box office.Does Jurassic Park exist? ›
Though Jurassic Park doesn't actually exist, some of its filming locations can be visited. Kualoa Ranch has a jurassic adventure tour which takes visitors around the filming locations in Kualoa, Hakipu'u and Ka'a'awa Valleys, says its website. Manawaiopuna Falls is located on private property.How did Jurassic Park get DNA? ›
...in the novel...
Dr. Wu explains to Grant and Sattler that they combined dinosaur DNA embedded in fossilized mosquitoes in amber combined with frog DNA to bring dinosaurs back to life. The research scientists retrieved dinosaur DNA from biting insects that have been preserved within ancient amber.
Why did they rename Jurassic Park? ›
Universal confirmed the film's title Jurassic World in September and set its release date for June 12, 2015. Trevorrow chose to rename the film from its previous title, Jurassic Park IV, to differentiate it from previous films in the series.How much did Cowboy T. rex sell for? ›
At $6.1 million, the buyer got a bargain. Estimates going into the auction was Maximus could fetch as much as $20 million. While Maximus was found in neighboring South Dakota, the Cowboy State has long been at the forefront of prehistoric discovery and research.How expensive is are T. rex bones? ›
That's the record for the most expensive dinosaur fossil ever sold at auction, set when another tyrannosaur specimen from the Hell Creek Formation called Stan was sold in a Christie's auction last year.