Category: Movie Reviews and Movie News

The Growth Spurts of Indominus rex

The Prehistoric Animals of “Jurassic World” – The Rapid Growth of Indominus rex

There are only another twenty-three days to wait before the movie “Jurassic World” opens at cinemas.  To say that this film has been eagerly awaited is a bit of an understatement, we expect things to reach fever pitch over the next three weeks or so.  In this febrile atmosphere, team members wanted to comment on an aspect of the movie, the fourth in the “Jurassic Park” franchise, that has not been discussed to any great degree.  Now we know this is pure science fiction, the extraction of ancient DNA from amber (or copal, the pre-cursor to amber for that matter), is extremely controversial but if we take all this with a pinch of salt, what gets us is the phenomenal growth rate of the genetically engineered dinosaurs.

Take for example, the new hybrid dinosaur developed by those scientists formerly of InGen and now working for the Masrani Corporation (the fictional conglomerate which owns and runs “Jurassic World”).

Fearsome “super-beast” Indominus rex

The hybrid dinosaur.

The hybrid dinosaur.

Picture Credit: Universal Studios

The growth rate for this hybrid dinosaur, which seems to be made up of a variety of Theropod dinosaurs as well as genetic material from a number of extant creatures, is phenomenal.  In trailers released to promote “Jurassic World”, Dr. Wu the leading geneticist behind the development of this new type of prehistoric animal, states that this dinosaur was designed to be “bigger than a T. rex.“.  In the film, it is believed to be around twelve metres long, a fraction smaller than an adult female Tyrannosaurus rex.

If the project to develop a genetically modified dinosaur was only given the go ahead sometime in 2012, this new species exhibits an accelerated growth rate.  It seems to have grown much more rapidly than any other large Theropod.  It was Masrani’s Chief Executive Officer, Simon Masrani, who announced that the company had been able to successfully engineer a new species, but that was only last year, so within twelve months the subject of this project has developed into a very big animal indeed!

At Everything Dinosaur, we have attempted to map the growth rate of Indominus rex against that of Tyrannosaurus rex.  This work is highly speculative, but we have tried to postulate the growth rates based on the timeline stated by Masrani Corporation and plotted this against the postulated growth rate for a large tyrannosaurid based on the current research.  At least in terms of growth rate, this is a no contest, I. rex wins hands down (or should that be claws down)?

Comparing the Growth Rates of Indominus rex and Tyrannosaurus rex

I. rex versus T. rex growth rates.

I. rex versus T. rex growth rates.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Quite a bit of research has been conducted on the ontogeny (growth) of dinosaurs, such as Late Cretaceous Theropods, an example being Tyrannosaurus rex.  It has been suggested that T. rex did not reach adult size until it got to its twenties.  It may even have had a growth spurt in its teenage years just like us humans.  Compare this to the genetic dinosaur hybrid Indominus rex, it reaches twelve metres in length in the summer of 2015, that means in three years or so it has had a spectacular growth spurt.

How we love the movies!  Of course, this is a science fiction film, the writers and film makers can do what they want, after all, it’s only CGI.  If they want a phenomenally quick growing dinosaur, then that is their prerogative.  When did science actually get in the way of a good film?

We suspect that I. rex will meet its demise at the end of the picture.  Not that we know anything, but just like the “raptors” in the first “Jurassic Park” film (1993),who were about to attack Dr. Grant and company, when a bigger predator intervened,  we suspect that another dinosaur might be responsible for the extinction of Indominus rex.

We shall have to wait and see…

As for certification, the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), has given “Jurassic World” a 13 certificate for it contains “intense sequences of science-fiction violence and peril.”   We are not sure about the UK certification (British Board of Film Classification), but we would expect this film to have a 12A certificate.

The Prehistoric Animals of Jurassic World – Indominus rex

The Making of Indominus rex – “Fierce or Untameable King”

The back story to the forthcoming film “Jurassic World” goes something like this.  With the death of Dr. John Hammond the founder of InGen in 1997, (according to the film franchise timeline), the corporate giant Masrani began negotiations to acquire the company and within twelve months InGen was part of the Masrani conglomerate.  A plan to develop and reopen the “Jurassic Park” attraction was put forward shortly afterwards and in around 2000, the go ahead was given to create a dinosaur led attraction on the island of Isla Nublar.  The attraction, known as “Jurassic World” was built between the years 2002 and 2004, construction materials alone are estimated to have been around $1.2 billion USD.  To give readers an appreciation of the costs of developing the new attraction, the construction of the new Wembley stadium (London), completed in 2007, cost around $2 billion USD in total.  The development of “Jurassic World” was a huge and ambitious undertaking for Masrani, the decision to go ahead with the project coincided with Masrani Global Corporation’s NASDAQ market debut (2000), the theme park was seen as a “flagship” enterprise for the organisation.  With many new shareholders to impress, the park had to be a success and when it opened in June 2005, it proved to be a huge hit, attracting 98,120 visitors in the first month alone.

Masrani – Ten Years of Making Dinosaurs

A decade of dinosaurs.

A decade of dinosaurs.

Picture Credit: Masrani

The Need to Build Bigger and Better Attractions

Anyone who has ever played the video game “Theme Park”, (which was originally released in 1994, just a year after the original Jurassic Park movie hit cinema screens), knows that the rides and the park itself needs to be constantly refreshed and updated to keep visitor numbers up.  With visitor numbers at “Jurassic World” beginning to fall or at best plateau, in the last two to three years, investors began to grow concerned.  Revenue from ticket sales, merchandise and other income streams were not growing as strongly as they once were, this prompted Masrani’s Chief Operations Officer, Richard Wiesner, to describe the 2013 results for “Jurassic World” as merely acceptable, despite profits from the theme park exceeding 20 million USD that financial year.

Richard Wiesner stated:

“The world has seen what we have to offer, but they aren’t in awe as they once used to be.  We need to change that.  You can’t expect the world’s greatest theme park to merely rely on the same attractions.  We need to be proactive, thinking of bigger and better things.”

Putting things in perspective, EuroDisney (Paris) over the same period posted a loss of 78 million Euros, but apparently Masrani wanted bigger and better…

Dr. Henry Wu’s Contribution

The chief scientist at InGen, Dr. Henry Wu, one of the world’s leading geneticists, had successfully combined the DNA of a number of plant species to create the “Wu flower” (Karacosis wutansis) back in 1997.  As one of the architects of the prehistoric animals in the failed “Jurassic Park” experiment, Wu was installed as one of the lead scientists to genetically engineer a whole new generation of dinosaurs for the new attraction “Jurassic World”.  InGen remained a separate company within the Masrani portfolio and one can only speculate on where their genetic research took them, but in response to the call to create bigger and more exciting attractions, it was Dr. Wu and his team who were given the task of developing a hybridised dinosaur.  The project to create a genetically engineered, hybridised dinosaur is believed to have started in late 2012.  This was to be an entirely new species, one that had genetic traits from a variety of Theropod dinosaurs combined with other extant (living species) – the Indominus rex project was begun.

Indominus rex – New Dinosaur on the Block

The Group’s Chief Executive Officer Simon Masrani announced in 2014, that the company had been able to successfully engineer a new type of dinosaur.  Once the news story broke, on line ticket sales to the park “skyrocketed”, it looks like 2015 is going to be a very big year for “Jurassic World”.  The dinosaur has been named Indominus rex (fierce or untameable king), note, we at Everything Dinosaur prefer to spell untameable with an extra “e”.  The new dinosaur attraction is due to open this summer and we all know that this is going to end very badly.

As Owen Grady (played by Chris Pratt) states:

“You just went and made a new dinosaur, probably not a good idea”

New Dinosaur on the Block – Indominus rex

The dinosaur instructs some Pterosaurs!

Classified as a genetically modified hybrid.

Picture Credit: Universal Studios

If Dr. Wu’s brief had been to create a bigger, more dangerous, fiercer and more intelligent dinosaur, then the project does seem to have achieved its goal.  We at Everything Dinosaur don’t know quite how the genome for this new theme park attraction was put together, originally there were two creatures, but one was eaten by the other.  I. rex does indeed look to be a mix of different meat-eating dinosaurs, with osteoderms resembling those seen on Abelisaurids (Carnotaurus, Majungasaurus and Rugops are mentioned)  and the Late Jurassic Ceratosaurus, three-fingered hands of an Allosaurid, but with much larger and more highly recurved claws, there is probably a bit of T. rex and a pinch of dromaeosaurid in there too.

Indominus rex – Dinosaur Attraction Due to Open in Summer 2015

A forthcoming attraction.

A forthcoming attraction.

Picture Credit: Universal Studios

In the pre-launch publicity for the attraction, it is stated that this new hybrid can run up to speeds of 30mph (48kmh), within the confines of its enclosure and that I. rex can roar as loudly as 140-160db, the sound created when a Boeing 747 jet takes off.  At around twelve metres, that is a phenomenal growth rate, much faster than the estimated growth rate for any other large Theropod.  Amongst all that dinosaur DNA, to obtain such a rapid growth rate, we speculate that some song-bird genes much have been thrown into the mixer, after all, blackbirds for example, can reach almost adult size in just a few weeks.  Although the growth rate of various members of the Theropoda are not that well understood, ontogenic studies have suggested it was actually prey such as Ornithopods that grew much more quickly.

To read about a study into dinosaur growth rates: Duck-billed Dinosaurs Grew Up Fast to Avoid Tyrannosaurs

Just how big this dinosaur could grow can only be speculated.  We suspect that in the forthcoming film this dinosaur will meet its demise, how this happens is one of the most closely guarded secrets in the history of the film franchise.  Could Indominus rex fight Tyrannosaurus rex?  Would a Spinosaurus (the big villain in Jurassic Park III), become involved somehow?  Like millions of dinosaur fans around the world we shall have to wait until the second week of June to find out.

Jurassic World Dinosaurs are not Accurate – So What!

Jurassic World = “Dumb Monster Movie”

A number of news stories have appeared in the media over the last few days criticising how the dinosaurs are depicted in the forthcoming film “Jurassic World”, which is the fourth film in the hugely successful “Jurassic Park” franchise.  Articles with headlines such as “Jurassic World branded “dumb monster movie” with unrealistic T. Rex without feathers” from the Scottish Daily Record and “New Jurassic World film slammed as “dumb monster movie” because dinosaurs were covered in fluffy feathers in real life” from the Mail Online, are typical of the adverse publicity.

Knocking a movie before it has been released is not new, prior to the release of the first three Jurassic Park films there were criticisms.  In this article, we want to address the balance a little bit and to put some of the statements made into context with regards to the idea of extracting genetic material from amber in the first place.  The fluffy dinosaur debate will come later.

“Jurassic World” Gets Criticism

A "feat" of genetic engineering?

A “feat” of genetic engineering but are the dinosaurs accurate?

Picture Credit: Universal Studios

Getting the Terminology Right – What’s in a Bionomial Name?

First of all, let’s get out of the way one inaccuracy from the headlines.  The dinosaur name “T. Rex” should never be written with the species name – rex given a capital letter.  There are rules and conventions as to how the taxonomic hierarchy is expressed, rules that we, at Everything Dinosaur do try to stick to.  Formally, the names of all genera in this case Tyrannosaurus, should always begin with a capital letter.  The species or trivial name however, should always begin with a lower case letter.  The “King of the Tyrant Lizards”, should be written as T. rex or Tyrannosaurus rex, note also that the names of genera and species are always printed in italics.  We at Everything Dinosaur do try to adhere to these conventions whenever we can, but we do admit, whilst we try to put the binomial name into italics, when stating the genus, we don’t normally revert to the italicised form.

Despite claims that dinosaur fans could end up being extremely disappointed when this film finally gets released (June 12th), it is just a film, it’s entertainment and from what we have seen from the trailers “Jurassic World” is going to be very entertaining.

The extremely talented and eloquent vertebrate palaeontologist Darren Naish, is quoted in a number of articles (Sunday Times, Business Standard, Daily Mirror to name but a few), he states:

“The original film [Jurassic Park released in 1993], showed dinosaurs that were not simply roaring, scaly monsters but were active, social, bird-like animals with dynamic bodies.  Now, Jurassic World is simply a dumb monster movie and there has been a deliberate effort to make its animals look different from the way we think they should.”

Let’s try and put some of these “headlines” seen in the media into context.

The Amber Effect

The idea that genetic material can be extracted from the bodies of blood sucking insects that have been preserved in amber, the basis for the entire franchise, simply, is not true.  In fact, whilst we at Everything Dinosaur try not to say “never” as advances in science will change circumstances, it is highly improbable that DNA, that forms the basis of a “de-extinction” of a species, will ever by successfully recovered from amber.  The author of the book “Jurassic Park”, Michael Crichton, admitted that experiments to extract insect DNA from fossilised tree resin did influence his writing.  Not long after the book was first published, a number of academic institutes published papers, reporting sequencing DNA from a variety of ancient insect species that had been preserved in amber. There was even one report of DNA being extracted from a weevil that had lived in the Early Cretaceous.  Fascinating stuff, but much of the claims made in these papers have now been retracted.  It was just too good to be true.

Michael Crichton – The Author of “Jurassic Park”

Wrote the original book at a time when breakthroughs in DNA extraction from amber were being reported.

Wrote the original book at a time when breakthroughs in DNA extraction from amber were being reported.

Picture Credit: EPA

Back in 1997, roughly around the time when the sequel to “Jurassic Park” was in cinemas “The Lost World”, a team of scientists from the Natural History Museum (London), tried to repeat the experiments in order to validate the earlier results.  They used amber and copal (the pre-cursor to amber), but they failed.  The team were unable to recover and authenticate ancient insect DNA.  They did find insect DNA, even when they used pieces of amber and copal that actually contained no insect remains.  The sophisticated “DNA detectors” used were picking up ambient, contaminating genetic material from our modern ecosystem, not the distant genetic echoes of ancient life from millions of years ago.

Truth is, the properties of amber make it a very unlikely safe haven for any ancient DNA, insect or dinosaur DNA for that matter.  Amber is light, it can float on salt water.  It is permeable to gases and even some liquids.  Any biological material such as genes are not entirely isolated from the outside world.  The expression “entombed in amber” might be quite commonplace, a term we have used ourselves, but DNA trapped inside amber is not sealed off.  A spokesperson from Everything Dinosaur explained:

“Any genetic material trapped within amber or copal is not cut-off.  Imagine a prison cell full of tiny microscopic doors, the delicate DNA is going to be exposed to forces that degrade and destroy it over time.  In addition, as copal changes to amber and whilst the amber remains in the strata, it will, in all likelihood, be subjected to pressure and tremendous heat that will obliterate any DNA.”

It always surprises us that the media picks up comments about the CGI dinosaurs and is happy to produce articles centred around the “accurate dinosaurs debate”, but they nearly always seem to miss the fundamental point that a genetically engineered dinosaur theme park is very much in the realm of science fiction and as such the idea of not having “accurately depicted dinosaurs” is something of a mute point.  This is a sci-fi movie and ultimately, the characters and creatures depicted within it don’t have to reflect the latest scientific thinking.

Non-fluffy Dinosaurs

Darren, is quite right in the comments that he makes, there are certainly many scientific inaccuracies, that is, if the trailers are anything to go by.  In the twenty-two years since the first film, there have been huge advances in our knowledge of the Dinosauria.  One of the main criticisms made by experts, dinosaur film fans and prehistoric animal fans generally, is the lack of feathers on the Theropod dinosaurs, that’s the Velociraptors, Tyrannosaurus rex, and so forth.

Naked Dinosaurs – Beware of our Feathered (or Unfeathered) Friends

Not feathered!

Not feathered!

Picture Credit: Universal Studios

The picture above shows a pair of “naked” Velociraptors as depicted in the forthcoming movie.  Although, no actual feather fossils are associated with Velociraptor mongoliensis, it is widely thought that these members of the Dromaeosauridae were feathered.

The original movie, when it was released in 1993, received some praise, but it too was also criticised.  Advances in CGI enabled film makers to depict dinosaurs as much more dynamic, active animals.   A nod was given to those scientists who had portrayed the Dinosauria as social animals living in herds with very bird-like characteristics, hence one of the most famous lines in the film when the ornithomimids run towards Dr. Alan Grant’s party “they’re flocking this way.”  This is exactly, one of the points that we think Darren was making, however, in the original “Jurassic Park”, the Tyrannosaurus rex was depicted as being somewhat akin to a reptilian Usain Bolt.  The character John Hammond, portrayed by the late Sir Richard Attenborough, excitedly exclaims “we clocked the T. rex at 32 miles an hour”.  Bio-mechanical studies and other evidence strongly refutes the idea of a speedy T. rex, one that in the film, nearly catches up with a Jeep.  If truth be told, based on what is known about large Tyrannosaurs, the “King of the Tyrant Lizards”, would have been lucky to have caught up with the fleeing scientists if they had been riding in a golf buggy.

Problems with the Pterosaurs and Mosasaurs

Let’s not just focus on the dinosaurs in the film, many of the other prehistoric animals depicted show considerable discrepancies from the fossil record and published research.  An oversized, shark eating Mosasaur for example, the shiny skinned flying reptiles several of which, just like the marine reptile, seem to have been subjected to a film makers “growth ray”.  Scientists like the highly respected Darren Naish are quite right to make such points.

Snack Time at the Mosasaurus Feeding Show

Come and see the "oversized" Mosasaur.

Come and see the “oversized” Mosasaur.

Picture Credit: Universal Studios

Feathered or naked, scaly dinosaurs.  Pumped up members of the Pterosauria or mammoth Mosasaurs are choices made by the Director.  It is simply a film, one that will be enjoyed by a great many people including palaeontologists and other scientists who are quite happy to suspend belief, at least for a couple of hours, roughly the running time of the movie –  (124 minutes with credits according to Colin Trevorrow, the Director).

The “Jurassic World” Legacy

We think that this film is going to inspire millions of young people to learn more about dinosaurs and animals that lived long ago.  Many of those young people in the cinema audience marvelling at the monsters, will go on to pursue academic careers of their own.  Perhaps, there might even be, amongst the millions of people who see this film, a girl or boy that will become an evolutionary biologist and contribute to the research on the genomes of extinct creatures.  Actually, this is quite likely, given the predictions regarding the box office potential of “Jurassic World”.

Those young people will want to quench their thirst for all things dinosaur!  The very fact that there are no “fluffy dinosaurs” in this film, will probably inspire young minds to find out more.  A very good place to start is to seek out the many books, papers and articles authored by the likes of Darren Naish and his counterparts in the scientific community.

“Jurassic World” is just a film, it is science fiction, it is entertainment.  The science behind the study of the Dinosauria and other prehistoric creatures has moved on dramatically since the very first “Jurassic Park”.  Research will continue long after films like “Jurassic World” have faded from the memory, and that research, will in all likelihood, reveal even more astonishing information about these fascinating creatures.

Jurassic World – Official Global Trailer

“We Have an Asset out of Containment”!

Fifty two days to go and counting.  That’s how long we have to wait for the premier of the movie “Jurassic World”, which opens on June 12th (there will be some screenings the day before we are led to believe), a new global trailer has been brought out and it really whets the appetite for what will be one of the most eagerly anticipated film releases for many a year.  The trailer shows the main dinosaur villain of the piece INDOMINUS REX (the name means fierce or untamable [untameable] king).  This genetically engineered chimera breaks out, causing Park Operations Manager, Claire Dearing (played by Bryce Dallas Howard ), to exclaim with glorious understatement our strapline to this article.

Jurassic World Official Global Trailer

Video Credit: Universal Studios

Twenty Thousand people trapped on an island with the prehistoric animals running riot, not enough boats, not enough guns and by the looks of the trailer there are plenty of meat-eating dinosaurs around, enough to cause hero Owen Grady (played by Chris Pratt), plenty of concern.

The Genetically Engineered Indominus rex

The dinosaur instructs some Pterosaurs!

The dinosaur instructs some Pterosaurs!

Picture Credit: Universal Studios

It seems this super intelligent dinosaur has some remarkable qualities, including being able to communicate with other prehistoric creatures.  In this still from the new trailer, the third trailer to be released, the fearsome Indominus rex persuades some Pterosaurs (Pteranodon longiceps) to join in the mayhem.

We can’t wait to see the film.

Giant Mosasaurs from Jurassic World

New Poster for Jurassic World Features Huge Mosasaur

In a bid to show movie goers new monsters in the fourth instalment of the “Jurassic Park” franchise, a marine reptile is to be included in “Jurassic World”.  The marine reptile featured is a Mosasaur, a member of the Squamata Order of reptiles (lizards and snakes), that according to the film makers at least, is absolutely huge.  Everything Dinosaur team members have already written about the Mosasaurus seen in the trailer for the forthcoming blockbuster.  In that article, we did point out that this prehistoric reptile seems to have been subjected to some form of Hollywood “size ray”, as it was many times bigger than the fossil record seems to suggest.

However, big teeth and jaws (no pun intended) put bottoms onto cinema seats so the Mosasaurus has been beefed up to a considerable extent.  The Great White shark eating exploits of this sea monster (as seen in the trailer), are illustrated once again in the latest poster release to promote “Jurassic World”.  In the poster, a little boy looks on whilst the super-sized Mosasaurus in its huge aquarium pursues a Great White, with seemingly only one winner likely.

The Latest Jurassic World Poster

Huge Mosasaur about to tackle "jaws".

Huge Mosasaur about to tackle “jaws”.

Picture Credit: Universal Studios

It is a very dramatic image and we appreciate the illustration of the ptyerygoid teeth, but even the largest genus of Tylosaurinae we know, (Hainosaurus) was nowhere near the size of the reptile shown in the poster.  Perhaps in captivity with all the genetic “jiggery pokery” that has gone on, the scientists managed to create a colossal marine reptile, far bigger than any, as yet described species known from the fossil record.

To read the earlier article by Everything Dinosaur on the “Jurassic World”  Mosasaurus: The Mighty Mosasaurus – A Little Too Mighty?

No doubt the diverse Super Family Mosasauroidea evolved into a myriad of forms.  This group of lizards, whose closest extant relatives include the Monitor Lizards, dominated life in marine environments for the last twenty million years or so of the Cretaceous.  Many types were the apex predators in their ecosystems, with some specimens estimated to have reached lengths in excess of 12 metres.  Indeed, a number of palaeontologists have cited much larger size estimates, for example Tylosaurus proriger could have been in excess of fourteen metres long.  Mosasaurus hoffmanni may have been thirteen metres long although estimates of up to seventeen metres have been given for some Mosasaur genera.

The Beautifully Detailed CollectA Mosasaurus Model

Fearsome marine predator from CollectA.

Fearsome marine predator from CollectA.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Many types of Mosasaur were formidable, general predators.  Bones of prey recovered from the body cavities of specimens include turtles, sharks, other marine reptiles and even the bones from a giant, flightless bird Hesperornis.  It is likely that the largest of these marine reptiles would have attacked and eaten sharks, even sharks as formidable as the “Cretaceous Great White” – Cretoxyrhina (C. mantelli), which grew up to seven metres long.  Mosasaurs did not have it all their own way, large sharks such as Cretoxyrhina would have also preyed upon smaller Mosasaurs.  A number of  Mosasaur specimens have been collected from Kansas, which represent fauna of the Western Interior Seaway, many bones show extensive Cretoxyrhina bite marks and these have been interpreted as evidence of predator/prey interaction as well as scavenging on the carcases by sharks.

To view the CollectA Mosasaurus model and other marine reptiles: CollectA Prehistoric Animal Models

The Prehistoric Animals of Jurassic World – Triceratops

The Triceratops Dinosaur and Jurassic Park (Jurassic World)

In this occasional series, team members at Everything Dinosaur are writing about some of the dinosaurs that appear in the “Jurassic Park” movie franchise.  Today, we feature Triceratops, an ever present in our annual survey of the top-ten prehistoric animals and one of the first dinosaurs to be seen in the original Jurassic Park film, which came out in 1993.  Triceratops is indeed, one of the most easily recognised and popular of all the Dinosauria .  Those three horns (Triceratops means “three horned face”), and the large body make Triceratops very easy to spot.

Two species are recognised, the largest being T. horridus, although it is possible that the genus may well be revised again and further species added.  In a recent scientific paper the evolutionary development of this genus was traced using fossils extracted from the famous Hell Creek Formation.  We at Everything Dinosaur also believe that Triceratops fossil material has also been excavated from Maastrichtian faunal stage deposits in Alberta and Saskatchewan (Canada).

To read more about the Hell Creek Formation (Montana) studies: How Triceratops Got Its Horns and Beak

Triceratops –  A Very Popular Dinosaur

A regular in Everything Dinosaur's annual survey of popular dinosaurs.

A regular in Everything Dinosaur’s annual survey of popular dinosaurs.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Triceratops is one of the first dinosaurs to be clearly seen in the original Jurassic Park movie, whilst touring the park in their custom built Jeeps, Dr. Grant’s party spot a downed Triceratops and interrupt the planned itinerary to investigate why this huge herbivore has collapsed.

A Sickly Triceratops is Examined Why is She Down?

A Triceratops that is not feeling very well.

A Triceratops that is not feeling very well.

Picture Credit: Universal Pictures

The Triceratops Sickness Mystery

Amongst the many curiosities to be found in “Jurassic Park”, there is the bizarre case of the collapsed Triceratops.  It is one of the very first dinosaurs that viewers get to see up close (wonderful puppetry from Stan Winston Studios), but in the film, the reason for the ill Triceratops is never really explained

Dr. Ellie Sattler (played by Laura Dern), spots the animal’s dilated pupil when a torch is shone at the eye and in conjunction with the numerous microvesicles (blisters) seen on the tongue,  hits upon the notion that the cause of the sick dinosaur is something “pharmacological”.  Attending the incapacitated animal is Dr. Gerry Harding, the Park’s chief veterinarian, (played by Gerald R. Molen, who incidentally was also a producer for the film).  Dr. Harding explains that these animals fall sick every six weeks or so, but in the film the mysterious illness is never identified.  Dr. Sattler suspects that these herbivores may have ingested some poisonous plant material.  She looks at the nearby vegetation and spots some fruiting West Indian Lilac (Tetrazygia bicolor).  These berries are poisonous, so cue Dr. Sattler to explore a huge pile of “dino dung” up to her armpit to see if the Triceratops had eaten any of these berries.  No berries are found and the viewer is left wondering what was the cause of the Triceratops’s regular bout of sickness, in the film this is not explained.

The Triceratops Illness Mystery (Jurassic Park 1993)

In the book the sick dinosaur was a Stegosaurus.

In the book the sick dinosaur was a Stegosaurus.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

In Michael Crichton’s book, upon which the film is based, the sick dinosaur is not a Triceratops at all but a twenty foot long Stegosaurus.  In the novel, it is suggested that this Late Jurassic herbivore was inadvertently swallowing berries along with stones to help grind up plant material in its gizzard (gastroliths), we are no experts on the digestive tracts of Ornithischian dinosaurs but when it comes to teeth, the Triceratops, which just happened to have evolved some eighty-eight million years after Stegosaurus stenops lived, wins hands down over Stegosaurus.  Stegosaurs may well have swallowed stones to help them grind up their food, after all there were no flowering plants or succulent fruits of the angiosperms to dine on 155 million years ago.  Triceratops however, being a Late Cretaceous Ceratopsian possessed a jaw crammed full of square and blocky teeth, a veritable dental battery.  What’s more, based on studies of the jaws and muscles surrounding those huge skulls, this dinosaur could probably chew its food.  The nine tonne Triceratops may not have needed to swallow stones to help its digestion.  Earlier parrot-beaked dinosaurs (Ceratopsia) such as Psittacosaurus did use gastroliths, but as far as we at Everything Dinosaur know, polished stones have not been found in association with Triceratops fossils.

So why show a sick Triceratops in the film at all?  After all, the book features a Stegosaurus, an equally popular member of the Dinosauria.  Michael Crichton is much more forthcoming than Steven Spielberg when it comes to dinosaur poisoning.  In the book, the reader is told that the stones the Stegosaurus swallows are very near to the West Indian Lilac plants.  As the dinosaur attempts to top up its “stomach stones” every six weeks or so, it accidentally picks up berries as well as small stones and ends up poisoning itself once again.

There are no such explanations provided in the movie, although the answer to the Triceratops poisoning mystery is briefly alluded to when Dr. Sattler examines some small stones under a West Indian Lilac bush and holds them in her hand for a moment, but that’s all the viewers get.

Why the Triceratops Detour?

So why the detour from the scheduled itinerary to examine the poorly Triceratops?  Conspiracy theorists have had a field day over this and here are some of the explanations that have been put forward:

  1. The film makers had to find a ploy that would enable the tour party to be delayed so that they could build up tension about the approaching storm that was to wreck havoc on the island.
  2. A scene in which the poisoning case is reasoned out by Dr. Sattler was cut from the final movie.
  3. It gave an opportunity for the cast members to physically interact with one of the amazing dinosaur puppets.
  4. It allowed the audience to a learn a little more about the personalities of the characters such as the tenacity of Ellie Sattler, which was important for what was to follow in the rest of the film.
  5. It permitted Dr. Ian Malcolm (played by Jeff Goldblum), more time to flirt with Dr. Sattler, helping to build up tensions between three of the main characters.

Whatever the reason, the Triceratops scene does pose a conundrum, after all, why replace the Stegosaurus in the book with a Triceratops in the film?  Perhaps, a Triceratops puppet was easier to make or looked more realistic.

Expect to see Triceratops in the forthcoming “Jurassic World”, which premiers on the 12th June.  At the theme park, there is an attraction called “Triceratops Territory”, although we could not find this on the Isla Nublar map.  However, baby Triceratops can be stroked and even ridden at the “Gentle Giants Petting Zoo”, we also learn that these horned dinosaurs love getting scratched behind their huge neck frills.

Expect Triceratops to Appear in “Jurassic World”

You will see panicked Triceratops's in "Jurassic World".

You will see panicked Triceratops’s in “Jurassic World”.

Picture Credit: Universal Studios

Triceratops remains a favourite dinosaur.  In our surveys, it is liked equally by girls and boys.  One of the best selling Triceratops models is the Papo Triceratops, this was joined last year by a replica of a baby Triceratops  in the Papo dinosaur model range so young dinosaur fans can play out their own dinosaur petting zoo adventures.

To view the full range of Papo prehistoric animal models: Papo Prehistoric Animals

The Prehistoric Animals of Jurassic World – Dilophosaurus

The Dilophosaurus Dinosaur and Jurassic Park (Jurassic World)

It’s 104 days and counting until the world premier of the new film in the “Jurassic Park” franchise “Jurassic World” and we can’t wait.  Just for a bit of fun as we countdown to the June 12th premier, our dinosaur experts are commenting on the various prehistoric animals that have featured in previous movies during this dinosaur themed franchise and just might get a look in when it comes to the nasty protagonists in the fourth instalment “Jurassic World”.

Second in this occasional series, one of the most controversial dinosaur portrayals in cinema history, a “spitter” otherwise known as Dilophosaurus.  The Theropod dinosaur known as Dilophosaurus may be familiar to movie goers because of its appearance in the first Jurassic Park film (1993), but sadly, this dinosaur was not portrayed very accurately.  A number of species have been named and fossils ascribed to this genus have been found in the western United States and China.  With one species, Dilophosaurus wetherilli, fossils of which come from Arizona, estimated to have measured in excess of six metres, this dinosaur was one of the largest predators around in the Early Jurassic.  However, in the film a much smaller dinosaur was depicted, the movie version was only about three metres long.  The size of the dinosaur has been explained by a number of commentators who have suggested that the Dilophosaurus featured in the first of the franchise was merely a baby.

The Dilophosaurus from the Film (Jurassic Park) 1993

A relatively small animal was depicted.

A relatively small animal was depicted.

Picture Credit: Universal Pictures

 This meat-eating dinosaur was responsible for the death of one of the villains of the film, when Dennis Nedry, (played by Wayne Knight), the computer programmer responsible for cutting the power to the Park was attacked and eaten.  The “Jurassic Park” Dilophosaurus (see picture above), did have those famous thin, double crests running across the top of its snout.  Dilophosaurus means “double crested lizard”, quite what purpose those crests served remains unknown.  Indeed, the crests have never been found attached to the skull, it is not certain that the bony crests were on the head, although the restoration in which the crests run parallel to each other along the snout does seem to be the most convincing.

The Jurassic Park Dilophosaurus had a neck frill and a very bright and colourful one at that.  This neck frill only became obvious immediately prior to the dinosaur attacking.    There is no fossil evidence to suggest that Dilophosaurus, or indeed any Theropod dinosaur had such a feature, but as most palaeontologists believe that the Dinosauria all had excellent colour vision, the film makers can at least be assured that the flashy red and yellow markings would have been noticed should “Jurassic Park” have made its debut sometime in the Mesozoic.

In the Film Dilophosaurus Had a Brightly Coloured Neck Frill

As depicted in the "Jurassic Park" film with a neck frill.

As depicted in “Jurassic Park” with a neck frill.

Picture Credit: Universal Pictures

The name “spitter” is a reference to another rather misleading feature of the Dilophosaurus from the film.  In order to overpower its victim, this dinosaur spat venom into the eyes of its potential prey.  Poor Dennis Nerdy, he did not see his end coming as he had been temporarily blended by the spitting Dilophosaur.  Once again, there is no fossil evidence to support the idea that this dinosaur was venomous.  Dinosaurs that had venom are a figment of Michael Crichton’s imagination, the author of the original book.  Or are they?  Certainly, there is no evidence to suggest that a Coelophysid such as Dilophosaurus was the dinosaur equivalent of a spitting Cobra, but back in December 2009, Everything Dinosaur team members wrote an article about one of the theories associated with Sinornithosaurus from the Early Cretaceous of China.  The light, thin skull of this small dinosaur did not seem very well suited to tackling struggling prey.  Then it was noticed that some of the larger teeth in the upper jaw and strange grooves running down them.  Could these teeth have evolved into fangs, linked to a venom sack, so that when Sinornithosaurus bit into a potential meal, poison ran down the tooth groves into the poor, soon to be poisoned victim?

To read more about the research into this Chinese dinosaur: Evidence for a Venomous Dinosaur?

The problem with venom glands is that being made of soft tissue, it is highly unlikely that these organs would survive the fossilisation process.  Given the very poor preservation of majority of the Dilophosaurus material from the United States, it can be stated with a degree of confidence that a venomous Dilophosaurus cannot be ruled out, however, it cannot be ruled in either.

A number of Dilophosaurus dinosaur models have been produced.   CollectA made a not-to-scale replica, one of their early models in the highly successful “Prehistoric Life” model series.  More recently, Safari Ltd introduced a Dilophosaurus into the “Wild Safari Dinos” model range.

To view the Safari Ltd range of prehistoric animal models available from Everything Dinosaur: Safari Ltd Prehistoric Animal Models

The Wild Safari Dinos Dilophosaurus Dinosaur Model

Dilophosaurus (Carnegie Collectibles)

Dilophosaurus Dinosaur Model

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The model depicts an agile, cursorial dinosaur with, of course very colourful head crests.  Papo, the French model manufacturer chose to make their Dilophosaurus more robust, giving the impression of a powerful hunter.

The Papo Dilophosaurus Dinosaur Model

Fossils found 60 years ago helped to describe Dilophosaurus.

Fossils found 60 years ago helped to describe Dilophosaurus.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

It seems that just like in the movies, model making companies can come up with different interpretations when it comes to known fossil material.

Will there be Dilophosaurus in Jurassic World?  Who knows?  However, on the island where the film is set, (Isla Nublar), the northernmost area is a “no go zone” for park visitors.  It is segregated from the theme park.  Perhaps this is the area of the island where some dinosaurs are allowed to roam free and perhaps, just perhaps, this is the part of the island in which the Dilophosaurs from the first movie were allowed to grow up.

We shall have to wait and see…

The Prehistoric Animals of Jurassic World – Mosasaurus

The Mighty Mosasaurus – A Little Too Mighty!

With around 120 days or so until the premier of the long-awaited film, “Jurassic World”, the fourth in the “Jurassic Park” franchise, we thought that it would be a bit of fun to comment on the various prehistoric animals and other critters that are likely to feature in this movie.  In this occasional series, we shall take a look at the rather eclectic range of cloned creatures that inhabit the theme park based on the tear drop shaped island Isla Nublar.

First up, one of the attractions at the centre of the Jurassic World theme park, and a new addition to the catalogue of prehistoric animals featured in the franchise, is Mosasaurus.

Mosasaurus Feeding on a Shark

Come and see the Mosasaur.

Come and see the Mosasaur.

Picture Credit: Jurassic World

Clearly, with a nod towards the Killer Whales seen at the Sea World theme parks, InGen part of Masrani Global, have added giant marine reptiles to their genetic portfolio. Quite how they have managed to get hold of the DNA of a Mosasaurus remains a bit of a mystery, but hey ho, it’s only pretend.

The tank housing the Mosasaurus (a female), contains 11,000,000 litres of presumably sea water, since the majority of Mosasaurs were marine animals.  That is the equivalent of 2.4 million imperial gallons, an impressively sized aquarium, but around half the size of the existing Killer Whale pool at San Diego Sea World.  Sea World has received a lot of criticism over the size of their Orca aquaria and recently it was announced that plans were in place to build a much bigger habitat at San Diego.  The plans include a number of ideas to enrich the Killer Whale’s environment, the larger brained Cetaceans would require much greater stimulation than the Mosasaurs with their close phylogenetic affinity to snakes and lizards.

That’s right, Mosasaurs belong to the Order Squamata (snakes and lizards), Mosasaurus was named and described back in 1822 following the scientific study of fossils found in a chalk quarry near Maastricht, Holland.  A number of species of Mosasaurus have been described and scientists believe that the Mosasauridae evolved from land-dwelling lizards sometime in the Late Cretaceous (estimated to have evolved around ninety million years ago).  They thrived for twenty-five million years with a number of species becoming apex marine predators, the largest of which could have exceeded eighteen metres in length.  This group died out in the End Cretaceous extinction event that also saw the demise of the dinosaurs.  As far as we at Everything Dinosaur know, the Mosasaurs, as part of the taxonomic Superfamily Mosasauroidea, are the most recent Superfamily associated with the Order Squamata to have become extinct.

The Mosasaurus as Depicted on the Jurassic World Website

The Mosasaurus from Jurassic World

The Mosasaurus from Jurassic World

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

In the information provided about the “Mosasaurus Feeding Show”, this creature is fed every two hours, that’s a lot considering that, like their living relatives the Monitor Lizards, these reptiles were probably cold-blooded and could  have survived for long periods without eating much at all.   The feeding time must be more like “snack time” for the Mosasaurus, although in the much viewed Jurassic World trailer, the Mosasaurus is depicted leaping out of the water to swallow whole what looks like a Great White Shark!

As for the size of the Mosasaurus in the movie, there has been a lot of comment about this already.  The animal looks enormous in the trailer, but like a number of other marine reptiles, palaeontologists have got their shrink rays to work on the fossil material.  Previous estimates for a number of marine reptiles have been re-sized downwards in recent years.  In the picture in which Mosasaurus is seen leaping out of the water to feed on a shark, if we estimate the size of the shark at three metres long, then the Mosasaurus is easily upwards of twenty-five metres in length.  So far as the fossil record goes, the biggest Mosasaurus could have reached lengths of a little over half this size.  Other types of Mosasaur, the likes of Hainosaurus may have been bigger, but even at thirteen metres a Mosasaurus would have been a frightening prospect.

Estimating the Sizes of Extinct and Extant Marine Predators

A "rough guide" to size.

A “rough guide” to size.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The picture above provides an approximate size guide for a number of marine predators.  Killer Whales range in size from 5-8 metres.  Size estimates for Great White Sharks vary and the same can be said for Carcharodon megalodon as well as the marine reptiles depicted.  However, whichever way you look at it, the Mosasaurus as shown in the Jurassic World trailer is oversized.  Perhaps those geneticists at InGen simply grew a bigger Mosasaurus who knows?  Even on the Jurassic World promotional website size estimates for their attraction vary, there is one reference for fourteen metres in length, another for eighteen metres.

A number of palaeontologists now contend that Mosasaurus had a tail fluke.  The model makers CollectA created a modern interpretation of a Mosasaurus in 2014, with a tail fluke added.  Safari Ltd have a beautiful Mosasaurus model in their Wild Safari Dinos range as well as a Tylosaurus replica in the company’s Carnegie Collectibles series.

To view the CollectA range of prehistoric animals including the Mosasaurus: CollectA Prehistoric Animal Models

Comparing Different Mosasaur Models (including Tylosaurus replicas)

Comparing different models of Mosasaurs.

Comparing different models of Mosasaurs.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The picture shows the CollectA 2014 Mosasaurus replica with its wonderful colouration and that tail fluke (top), the Wild Safari Dinos Mosasaurus model (middle) and the Carnegie Collectibles (bottom).

To view the range of Carnegie and Wild Safari Dinos models available from Everything Dinosaur: Safari Ltd Dinosaurs and Prehistoric Animal Models

We are not sure how big a role the Mosasaurus is going to play in the Jurassic World movie, but we are delighted to see the addition of marine reptiles to the film franchise.  They are most welcome.

Jurassic World – Official Trailer

Jurassic World – The Official Trailer

So it has finally arrived, Universal Pictures have released the official trailer for Jurassic World, the fourth movie in the JP franchise.  We had been aware of the plot details for some time, now we can see the trailer.   When this film is released (June 12th 2015), it will be 22 years since the first Jurassic Park hit the screens – gosh, we are excited.

The Official Trailer – Jurassic World

Video Credit: Universal Studios

Remember, the Park opens June 2015.

We at Everything Dinosaur can’t wait although the marine reptile looks a little oversized.  Perhaps it has been genetically altered, not the only thing on Isla Nublar to have been genetically modified?

Jurassic World Trailer “Expected December 2014″

Jurassic World Trailer Delayed

Film buffs and dinosaur fans alike have been keen to hear news about the eagerly awaited release of the Jurassic World film trailer.  The movie itself, is scheduled to premier on June 12th 2015 and a number of formats will be available including 3-D and IMAX but rumours circulating indicate that the trailer is being delayed for a few more weeks at least.  Why all the interest in the trailer?  The answer is simple, Universal Pictures and director Colin Trevorrow  have been careful not to disclose any information about the actual prehistoric animals that will feature in the summer 2015 blockbuster, the fourth in the “Jurassic Park” cinema franchise.  So far only stills showing some of the actors and a few carefully managed pics hinting at the prehistoric animals in the film have been released.

The movie moguls are not daft, their intention is to squeeze every last penny out of the film and the merchandising spin-offs.  They know that despite the strong cast list that includes Chris Pratt (Guardians of the Galaxy, Parks and Recreation), Bryce Dallas Howard (Spider Man 3, The Twilight Saga), child actor Ty Simpkins (Iron Man 3), it is the dinosaurs that people want to see.  In terms of the Mesozoic cast list, the film makers have been keeping their cards very close to their chests.  However, Everything Dinosaur reported back in June that one of the super-predators to be seen in the film will be “Diablo rex” a mutated dinosaur which had elements of Tyrannosaurs, Velociraptors and the ability to camouflage itself thanks to chromatophores from borrowing the genes extracted from Cephalopods.  Addendum – The dinosaur is named Indominus rex in the movie.

To read more about this and see some pics: First Glimpse of the Real Stars of Jurassic World

The official movie poster “Park Opens” shows a tyrannosaur skeleton in outline but film fans were hoping that the trailer would provide them with more information of the real film stars – the dinosaurs and other prehistoric animals.

The Official Poster for the Forthcoming Film “Jurassic World”

Jurassic World Poster

Jurassic World Poster

Picture Credit: Universal Studios

Earlier in the summer, Everything Dinosaur posted up pictures of one of the movie props showing the layout of the theme park that is a location for this new dinosaur film.  The prop, which was a map of the attraction, contained an intriguing list of the prehistoric animals that could be viewed at the park.  However, fans are eagerly awaiting the trailer to see if they can get a glimpse of the dinosaurs as they will appear on the silver screen.  It had been planned to launch the trailer to Jurassic World in cinemas at the end of October, accompanying other trailers and advertisements prior to the showing of the Warner Bros movie “Intersteller”.  The trailer, although completed, has been re-scheduled for a December release to accompany the third part in the Hobbit trilogy.  The reason for the delay has been cited as purely a strategic reason.  Jurassic World is currently in post- production and due for global release in June 2015, but the powers that be when it comes to films, know that the longer they can keep the dinosaurs a mystery, the greater the hype there is going to be.

Everything Dinosaur will post up  the trailer when it is available.  All in good time…

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