Field of Science

Welcome to Jurassic Park?

A fictional book that became a dino blockbuster, and it was on the telly last weekend! Jurassic Park is currently the 23rd highest-grossing film of all time - that's higher than Spider-man, Twilight and Independence day!

Jurassic Park is a story about the creation of dinosaurs using fossilised DNA. The scientists at Jurassic Park then filled in the gaps of this DNA with that of a frogs, and thus made lots of baby dinosaurs. The dinosaurs then inevitably escaped from their zoo-like enclosures, caused a lot of panic and, of course, ate a few people.

But.. this film was one of the first things that got me interested in science, which is a great thing. I wanted to be a dino-fighting palaeontologist! However, after realising palaeontology wasn't quite as exciting as Jurassic Park made out, I turned to microbiology.

I did however notice a Telegraph headline on my feed this afternoon that immediately grabbed my attention and reminded me of my dino-fighting palaeontologist dream!

Image: Velociraptors in Jurassic Park 3 and Sam Neil keeping it cool Universal Studios

"Jurassic Park 'extremely unlikely', scientists conclude."

Extremely unlikely. Improbable. These were the words used. The linking of the research to Jurassic Park was a great hook, however the research was on one of their cousins.. A bird known as a Moa. This looked very similar to today's Emu.

Basically the researchers from the Western Australian Murdoch University looked at the 'half-life' of DNA (this is the time it takes for half of the fossilised DNA to decay). They found that at an ideal temperature of -5 degrees Celsius it took 521 years for half of the DNA to disappear, and that after 6.8 million years there would be no DNA left.

This means that dinosaurs, which have been extinct for 65 million years, would have no fossilised DNA left. However, the time for DNA to fully decay is actually longer than was previously predicted (450-800,000 years), meaning that fossilised DNA from creatures that became extinct during this 6.8 million year window could possibly be obtained.

However, it's not that easy. The researchers said that environmental conditions such as temperature, microbial 'attack' and oxygenation can affect the DNA decay time, as well as the time and place the animal died and soil composition.

So, like the Telegraph says, it's 'improbable' that we could recreate 'Jurassic Park'
They didn't say 'impossible' tho..


The Proceedings of the Royal Society B paper
Murdoch University news story
The Telegraph news story
Highest grossing films list
Jurassic Park first official trailer
Jurassic Park official website

1 comment:

  1. So why not turn to botany. Ferns and gymnosperms were Jurassic park.


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