Recreating prehistoric life is at the fore-front of interest in the scientific community. Large strides have been made in uncovering the genome sequences of Neanderthal. Within a few years, scientists hope to unravel our relatives’ entire genetic code. With Neanderthal cloning staring us in the face, a more seductive idea has emerged with immense support from the media.
The idea of cloning dinosaurs and other prehistoric life became popularized by the 1992 film Jurassic Park (based on Michael Crichton’s 1990 novel). Though it may have sparked new interest into the field of paleontology, it did so with deceiving inaccuracies. However, the technical fallacies of the actual dinosaurs are somewhat forgivable as it added to the film’s dramatic appeal. Velociraptor, as depicted in the film, was about the size of a grown man. In reality, velociraptor came to about the kneecap. Furthermore, velociraptor would more likely have been covered in feathers rather than the lizard-like skin portrayed in the movie. One scene shows velociraptor fogging the window of a door. This is an endothermic or warm blooded trait as it implies the dromaeosaurid’s body temperature is above the temperature of his environment. There is also no evidence of dilophosaurus bearing a neck frill, and brachiosaurus did not have the ability to chew his food in a circular motion (iguanodon was the first dinosaur to develop this technique by acquiring back molars to allow for equine or bovine-like chewing). Fortunately, tyrannosaurus remained very close to his biological authenticity, with the only paleobiological errors stemming from a lack in computer animation such as rudimentary ball and joint programs. However, the erroneous nature of the deoxyribonucleic acid or “DNA” and cloning errors are harder to exonerate.
The idea of scientists finding complete dinosaur helical chains inside 65 million year old mosquitoes is quite fanciful. Not only would the DNA need to survive, scientists would also need to sort it from the mosquitoes’ own DNA. If any DNA were found at all, there would be major gaps. The movie does address this and uses frog DNA to fill the voids, though mammals are closer relatives to dinosaurs than amphibians. The more obvious alternative would have been to use reptile DNA or better yet the living descendants of dinosaurs: birds. However crude in precision, Jurassic Park has opened the door of imagination, and scientists have begun to turn from cloning dinosaurs to growing them.
Despite any fallacies Jurassic Park may have created, the idea of cloning dinosaurs has grown in popularity among...