The Jurassic Park franchise takes a lot of heat for stretching the science in the films, but we don’t want to throw more shade on such an amazing franchise. We don’t care that the dinosaurs don’t look and act exactly as they would in real life. We don’t care that the science behind cloning the plants in Jurassic Park was never discussed. We don’t care that the science behind cloning the dinosaurs wouldn’t work that way (they could extract fossilized mosquito DNA but not fossilized dinosaur DNA from a mosquito). We don’t even care that most of the dinosaurs in the films aren’t from the Jurassic period. The name sounds awesome, and we love the films as works of fiction. However, since Jurassic Park and its sequels sparked such a huge interest in dinosaurs for so many people, there are those that hold the franchise responsible for representing dinosaurs properly. We won’t go that far, but we will compare the film dinosaurs to reality and see what the major differences are.
So, no, this is not a shaming project. We aren’t pointing and laughing at the Jurassic Park films. After all, they’ve covered their tracks and their right to use artistic license by saying that the InGen dinosaurs in the films are hybrids and exaggerated versions of the real things. By doing this, the Jurassic Park team defend themselves from criticism. The dinosaurs we see on screen can’t be ridiculed because they aren’t meant to be accurate. But this type of exaggeration can be useful. We can use the film’s dinosaurs as a jumping-off point to learn something. Just because so many people base their knowledge of dinosaurs on these films isn’t Jurassic Park’s fault, but it can’t hurt to go through and talk about what information is wrong and why.
So let’s take a look at 15 Things The Jurassic Park Franchise Got Way Wrong About Dinosaurs.
15. Tyrannosaurus Rex
A lot of attention has gone to the Tyrannosaurus rex in Jurassic Park and rightfully so. It was magnificent. Over the years, however, people have taken the film’s version of the dinosaur as the basis of their understanding of the beasts. There are several differences from film to reality. For one, it’s incredibly unlikely that the T-rex would make as much noise as it did. Even though the dinosaur was probably about 30% more massive in reality than in Jurassic Park, making that much noise and vibration when it moved would make it a terrible hunter. Then, there’s the idea that the T-rex can’t track prey if it isn’t moving, similar to some reptiles. Actually, much of the evidence today suggests that the T-rex had similar eyesight to a hawk or an eagle. In other words, incredibly effective eyesight. Hell, even if they couldn’t see their motionless prey, their sense of smell was remarkable, equal to a modern-day vulture.
The ankylosaurus was the dinosaur in Jurassic World that we see when the kids are riding in those amazing park gyrospheres. In the movie, these dinosaurs had mace-like tails that they whipped around as defensive or even offensive weapons. In reality, the ankylosaurus was a gentle plant-eating dinosaur. It would not have used it tail club as a weapon to kill anything, except maybe to hit a tree to knock down some fruit. As for the other characteristics, it’s unclear if ankylosaurs even hung out in packs like in the film. There was a group of pinacosaur fossils, an ankylosaur that lived in the Gobi Desert, that were discovered, which could indicate that they were social. But it’s still inconclusive.
13. The Sounds
The Jurassic Park franchise would be pretty boring if none of the dinosaurs or other creatures made noises, but how much of it is real? It’s tough to say. Take the brachiosaurs in Jurassic Park, for instance. Their whale-like calls sounded awesome, but it’s highly unlikely that the noise was accurate. The only evidence we have, however, since the noise-making parts of the body don’t make good fossils, is from modern-day birds and crocodiles. The crocodiles often make a grunting sound, but they also howl and whistle sometimes. It’s possible that dinosaurs could do the same. Most of the time, though, crocodiles are quiet, which leads many to believe that a real dinosaur island would be a pretty silent place.
The dilophosaurs were those little guys that shot venom at Nedry in the first film. Although they looked really cool in real life as well, they were not quite the same beasts as we saw in Jurassic Park. First of all, there is absolutely no conclusive evidence that these dinosaurs spit venom. At the time the film was made, there was a hypothesis that this venom-shooting ability was possible for some dinosaurs because an unknown carnivore’s fossilized tooth was discovered with a groove in it, similar to some venomous snakes. But no dilophosaur fossils have shown any proof of that. Others point to the poisonous Komodo dragons, but it is a stretch to give this ability to a dilophosaur. Then, there’s the neck frill in the film. Since this type of neck frill wouldn’t hold up well in a fossil, it’s tough to say for certain that dilophosaurs did not have them, but there’s no evidence to suggest they would have that addition. Truthfully, these guys wouldn’t even need these extra defenses. They were much bigger than they were in Jurassic Park. They were also extremely fast, about 20 feet long, and weighed about 1,000 lbs. They would have been very threatening without the extra bells and whistles that the film gave them.
A lot has been made of the raptors in Jurassic Park. It’s almost guaranteed that the Michael Crichton and Steven Spielberg versions were based on the mislabeling of a deinonychus as a subspecies of a velociraptor. They are actually cousins, although the deinonychus is much closer to the film beast we saw. Real velociraptors were closer to turkeys, both in size and ferocity. Another difference between fact and fiction is that the real raptors could not snarl. Since they lacked facial muscles just as birds do, all those facial expressions were fictional elements. In all the films, especially Jurassic World, the velociraptors also had catlike tails that moved easily. In truth, their tails lacked the bones that would give them that type of flexibility. Similarly, their hands/wrists were much different. Rather than the bunny-style or kangaroo-style hands and wrists that they had in the films, velociraptors actually had hands that faced each other, almost like they were always holding an imaginary basketball.
Many Paleontologists have criticized the Jurassic Park franchise, particularly Jurassic World (because it’s the newest), for ignoring evidence that puts feathers on many dinosaurs. Like birds, some dinosaurs had plumage for a variety of purposes, such as mating, temperature control, and even flight. In 1996, three years after Jurassic Park was released, the first fossil evidence of feathers on a dinosaur was found. This excuses the first film, but many have wondered why the following films didn’t correct the mistake. Even the T-rex was said to be much different than the scaly beast we saw in the films. Instead, it would have been rather fuzzy. The makers of Jurassic World chose to maintain the film’s continuity rather than appeal to the science, which…um…ruffled a few feathers.
9. Velociraptors Again
Since the velociraptors played such a huge role in each of the films, it’s understandable that scientists have spotted so many differences from reality. One of the big plot elements in the films is in the dinosaurs’ intelligence. We learn that they are insanely smart, social, and pack hunters. It’s believable to say that they were smarter than many or maybe even most dinosaurs, but they were not even close to Jurassic Park smart. They won’t be working their way through complex problems like they did in the movies. They won’t be figuring out doors or following sign language. In Jurassic Park III, Alan Grant says they were smarter than dolphins or primates. That’s hogwash. Scientists don’t even think that raptors were as smart as the birds of today. So, to suggest that they’d be the smartest of all creatures is crazy talk.
8. Dino Droppings
In Jurassic Park, Ellie sticks her arm in a giant pile of stegosaurus droppings. There’s been a lot of talk about if this is the product of one dinosaur or a collection from several. But since it seems silly to pile up poop out in a natural reserve, we have to assume that this is from one beast. If that’s the case, this pile of dino droppings is not realistic. Sure, it served a purpose in getting a laugh and creating a shock factor, but don’t go off thinking one stegosaurus could make that much waste. Obviously, the dino is sick, but the park should have been a lot more concerned about how much waste was made. In the real world, scientists believe that the largest possible dinosaur poo would be about 15 liters and made from the largest dinosaur ever discovered. We’ve never found anything close to this size, and this would still be much less than what we see the stegosaurus make in Jurassic Park. Currently, the longest coprolite (fossilized dung) ever found was 40 inches long.
The pachycephalosaurus was the dinosaur that got the unfortunate and insensitive nickname of “pachy” in Jurassic World. These, you’ll remember, were also the dinos that were breaking their tracking devices because they butted their heads together so often. The thing that scientists dispute, though, is whether or not this behavior is accurate. There was a time when this was the primary belief, but things have become more complicated. Many scientists now argue that the domes on their heads were simply ornamental. There is also the suggestion that the backs of these dinosaurs would not be able to sustain forceful butting, and the rounded domes would only result in glancing blows. The case is nowhere near close on these dinosaurs, though. New evidence suggests that a good amount of fossils of these dinosaurs display cranium damage consistent with the head-butting concept. Maybe Jurassic World got this one right.
Jurassic Park III featured a giant spinosaurus, the sail-backed dinosaur that fought and killed a giant Tyrannosaurus rex. This would just never have happened in a million years or even 65 million years for that matter. The real spinosaurus had a long and slender snout that seems built for eating fish, not gigantic hunters like the T-rex. There’s also a small nitpicking bit that could be applied to a number of pieces in the franchise, but the spinosaurus likely predated the T-rex by about 35 million years, so they would not be very familiar with each other. This would make the spinosaurus even more vulnerable to a T-rex’s vicious attacks.
One of the biggest (if only) compliments that Jurassic World got from scientists was in the depiction of a mosasaurus, the giant aquatic reptile that jumps out of the water. Well, really, they only got the teeth right, but that’s something at least. The additional rows of teeth might have seemed like it was dreamed up by Hollywood/InGen, but it’s grounded in reality. The other stuff was sensationalized, though. The size of the beast was too big—probably about five meters or about 30% longer than the largest known mosasaurus in the real world. They also didn’t have frills on their backs like the mosasaurus in Jurassic World. All of these things were once believed about these reptilian beasts back in the 19th century, so it’s not totally crazy to include these details. There is another interesting question about the seafaring beasts in these fictional parks. How would a mosquito get a sample? They only came up for air for a few seconds, not long enough for a mosquito to get a good haul of blood. Maybe it was from specimens that washed ashore.
Perhaps more than any other beast in the franchise, the pterosaurs are the ones that use the most artistic license. In a couple of the films, we see pterosaurs picking up humans and flying away. First of all, some people still debate whether or not the large pterosaurs could even fly. They could, since their bone structure was so light and hollow. But the only reason they were capable of flying was because they were incredibly light in relation to their size. The average size of a pterosaur is said to be about 35 kilograms. So, how in the world could one of these pick up a person more than twice their weight and fly away? Well, the simple answer is that they couldn’t. There is no way that that would be possible.
Way back in Jurassic Park, we were first introduced to the gallimimus. You’ll remember that they were dinosaurs that were seen running together and trying to evade an attacking Tyrannosaurus rex. The stampeding dinosaurs, if you will. This first version of the gallimimus appeared to lack teeth. This seems to have been changed in their Jurassic World brethren. The dinosaurs in the latter movie were said to have teeth, although it is difficult to spot with your own eyes. In real life, the gallimimus did not have teeth and would have been considerably smaller than the dinos in the film. They are also almost certainly not carnivores as suggested in some of Jurassic World‘s literature. Without a single tooth in their mouths, it would be challenging for them to eat even a small animal.
Pteranodon is a genus of pterosaurs that we see in Jurassic World. We already discussed the flying-off-with-a-human element, but we also wanted to address another difference between fiction and reality. Not only could these guys not lift a human and fly away with it, but their feet were not even built for grasping. Unlike a hawk or an eagle which has strong gripping claws, pteranodons had very weak feet built for walking on flat land. So, in the franchise, when you see one of these birdlike creatures perched on a tree or limb, that’s pure fantasy. These things walked on flat land and would not hang out on trees.
The giant brachiosaurs from Jurassic Park were one of the most amazing parts in the first film. Their reveal alongside the epic score was a monumental moment in film history. The dinosaurs themselves looked absolutely incredible. They still do after all these years. They did get a few things wrong about the brachiosaurs in the film, though. For one, brachiosaurs were not able to stand on their hind legs and feed from trees like in the movie. That’s probably the biggest error, if we can call it that. Their massive bodies were built to require all four legs to support themselves. Furthermore, the Gum Tree leaves that they’re eating would almost certainly be lethal to them.
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