The Jurassic World movies are largely considered the best sequels or continuations of Jurassic Park. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is thrilling fans by bringing the prehistoric age to life in our modern world. While this is just a fun sci-fi flick, Montana State University paleontologist Jack Horner is working on creating a real-life dinosaur-like creature called the chickenosaurus, and that may lead to the creation of similar dinosaur-like animals.
Jack Horner was a consultant for the first three Jurassic Park movies, and he was the inspiration for the character Dr. Alan Grant portrayed by Sam Neill. But unlike the character of Grant, Horner isn’t against the idea of recreating dinosaurs. In an interview with NBC MACH, the paleontologist spoke on the science behind Jurassic Park, if we could ever clone a real dinosaur and the chickenosaurus.
Jack Horner explained how Michael Crichton loosely based Alan Grant on him based on his 1988 book, Digging Dinosaurs. Lata Ryan, Jurassic Park‘s associate producer, ended up calling Horner on Steven Spielberg’s behalf to see if he wanted to be a scientific consultant on the film. Horner told NBC MACH what his primary job was for Jurassic Park.
“My job was to help make sure the dinosaurs were as accurate as they could be — based on the science of 1990. I also worked with Steven on set when animatronics was being shot. Steven would ask about the accuracy of particular movements, and the actors had questions about pronunciation. Steven also asked that I spend some time with Sam Neill…I was also present for questions at the outdoor shoot at the dig site.”
The paleontologist also revealed that he did object to one way the dinosaurs were initially portrayed in Jurassic Park. He said that in the famed kitchen scene, the raptors originally had forked tongues like a snake. Horner said that raptors did not have forked tongues and that giving them ones would depict them more like cold-blooded lizards rather than their warm-blooded relatives like birds. Spielberg agreed to change the scene, and the raptors’ snorting to fog up the window is something only a warm-blooded animal can do.
The scientist also said that there was some accurate science in the movie, like the explanation of what DNA is, but that they weren’t trying to make a documentary, but rather, a fun movie. He also commented that at the time, the dinosaurs were portrayed the way they thought they looked based on science from 1993. Now, of course, we know that meat-eating dinosaurs were feathered, and the animals were likely much more colorful and bird-like.
He also remarked that the idea of the animals chasing cars and terrorizing people isn’t that realistic. He said that it would be similar to visiting a wild animal park; as long as visitors kept their windows rolled up, the animals wouldn’t bother them. But that doesn’t make for an exciting movie. He also remarked why we won’t be able to clone actual dinosaurs.
“We can’t clone dinosaurs. We can’t get any of their DNA. Even if we had dinosaur DNA, we don’t know how to actually form an animal just from DNA. The animal cloning that we do these days is with a live cell. We don’t have any dinosaur live cells.”
The paleontologist added that if he could recreate a dinosaur, he would. He remarked that there isn’t a single person in the world who wouldn’t want to see the animal. He then explained how the Jeff Goldblum character, Ian Malcolm, isn’t the typical scientist. Horner remarked that most scientists think they should try to discover everything that’s discoverable, and after something is discovered, then you can put some limits on it.
Jack Horner also pointed out that there are still a lot of misconceptions about the animals, like how many people still believe they roamed Earth with humans. He said that’s simply not true, and that there are approximately 65 million years in between them. He also said that the T-Rex being the top predator is a myth and that they were probably more of a scavenger. He then explained his current project regarding the chickenosaurus, which he humorously said he was creating to have a pet dinosaur.
“I’m working on a project to see if we can bring back some dinosaur characteristics that have been lost through evolution. Genetically speaking, those are called animistic genes—basically genes that were important to dinosaurs that birds have since lost through evolution. Our project really is to look for these animistic genes and turn them back on again and see if we can get an animal a little bit more like a dinosaur.”
Though Jurassic World is very fictional, it may not be long before we have dinosaur-like animals, and one day we may be able to get our very own chickenosaurus.