All about dinosaurs, fossils and prehistoric animals by Everything Dinosaur team members.
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Reviews and news of films, DVDs and videos featuring dinosaurs, prehistoric animals and other things of interest to fans of dinosaurs and palaeontologists by team members of Everything Dinosaur.

14 02, 2018

The Very First Edition of “Prehistoric Times”

By | February 14th, 2018|Dinosaur Fans, Magazine Reviews, Main Page, Movie Reviews and Movie News, Photos, Prehistoric Times|0 Comments

“Prehistoric Times” First Edition

Two years ago, Everything Dinosaur was informed that Aardman Animations, the company behind such iconic characters as Wallace & Gromit, Shaun the Sheep and films such as “Arthur Christmas”, had approached our chum Mike Fredericks, the editor of the quarterly magazine “Prehistoric Times” to request permission to utilise his magazine in a forthcoming movie.  The film entitled “Early Man” was premiered in the UK last month and is due to be released in the United States later this week.

A Still from the Animated Film “Early Man” Showing the Prehistoric Times

The first edition of "Prehistoric Times".

An early subscriber to “Prehistoric Times”.

Picture Credit: © 2018 Studiocanal S.A.S. and The British Film Institute

“Prehistoric Times”

Everything Dinosaur contacted Aardman Animations and they very kindly agreed to release a still from the movie, showing one of the lead characters, Lord Nooth, the greedy leader of the Bronze Age folk, voiced by British actor Tom Hiddleston, perusing an edition of “The Prehistoric Times”.

The modern version of “Prehistoric Times” (an unintended oxymoron), is a quarterly publication which has been in circulation for more than a decade, but clearly the magazine was popular much earlier.  From this evidence, it seems that this magazine has been in vogue since the New Stone Age.

For further information about “Prehistoric Times” – the quarterly, not the scroll version: Prehistoric Times Magazine

You can even read it in the bath should you wish to do so, although the prehistoric Wild Boar is optional.

7 08, 2016

“Meg” The Megalodon Movie

By | August 7th, 2016|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Movie Reviews and Movie News|0 Comments

Prehistoric Shark Thriller Movie to Feature Megalodon

It may be more than forty years since “Jaws” hit our cinemas screens, but sharks still fascinate and terrify, although statistically you are more likely to be killed by a cow than by a shark.  Sharks may have a reputation for being cold-blooded, merciless killers but in reality, there are on average, about half a dozen or so reported fatalities each year from shark attacks.  Cows tend to be more dangerous.  Cows with young can be very protective and have been known to charge and trample unwary people who venture too close.  According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) some seventy-four people have been fatally attacked by cows in the UK since the year 2000.  Globally, cows present a much greater risk than any shark.  Within the shark group (Elasmobranchii), there are around 480 extant species, but only three of these, the Bull shark, Tiger and Great White, represent a significant threat to beach goers.  However, expect a spike in the number of people claiming to have Selachophobia (a morbid fear of sharks), as filming of a new shark-inspired movie gets into full swing.

C. Megalodon to Feature in a New Horror Film

Based on the series of “Meg” novels by the talented American science-fiction writer Steve Alten, filming is getting underway on the Warner Bros production and a tentative release date of March 2nd 2018 has been proposed.  This is a full three months before Universal Pictures intend to release their Jurassic World sequel, which currently has the working title “Jurassic World II – Ancient Futures”.

Jason Statham (Transporter, The Expendables, Snatch) has been confirmed as the lead actor, he has been joined on the cast list by Jessica McNamee.  Statham plays formal U.S. Navy diver Jonas Taylor who is given the chance to redeem his reputation by leading a rescue mission to save a team of Chinese scientists who have encountered a Megalodon (giant prehistoric shark) in a deep ocean trench.

The Front Cover of the Book “Meg” by Steve Alten

"Meg" front cover image.

Exciting and thrilling adventure story based on Megalodon.

Directed by Jon Turtletaub (National Treasure: Book of Secrets), the film is likely to be a watery gore-fest, although we at Everything Dinosaur doubt whether this feature will have quite the impact of Steven Spielberg’s 1975 film about a killing spree from a Great White.

Of course it’s all hokum, the likelihood of a giant, apex predator shark lurking in the deepest recesses of the ocean is extremely remote.  There are undoubtedly a vast number of marine organisms new to science awaiting discovery.  After all, we know more about the surface of the moon than we do about the deep sea, but there is simply not enough food in the Hadalpelagic Zone (that part of the ocean that comprises the deepest trenches and underwater canyons), to sustain such a large fish, even a single sixty foot long specimen.  Still when did science ever get in the way of a good movie script?

The Huge Jaws of a Megalodon Shark (C. megalodon)

Megalodon jaws.

Reconstructed jaws of a Megalodon shark (human gives scale).

Picture Credit: Rex Features

Safari Ltd produced an excellent replica of the giant prehistoric shark C. megalodonWild Safari Dinos Megalodon Shark Model

The Wild Safari Dinos Megalodon Shark Model

The Wild Safari Dinosaurs Megalodon shark model.

Rows and rows of teeth inside the mouth.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

It looks like Megalodon (C. megalodon) is going to join that ever-growing list of prehistoric creatures that have featured in movies.

5 07, 2015

“Jurassic World” and the Velociraptor Called “Blue”

By | July 5th, 2015|Movie Reviews and Movie News|0 Comments

 Papo Velociraptor Model Turns “Blue”

With the release of “Jurassic World” last month, a whole new generation of young dinosaur fans were introduced to prehistoric beasties such as Triceratops, Stegosaurus, Tyrannosaurus rex and Apatosaurus.  Whilst chatting with fans of the film over the last few weeks we have discovered that one of the favourite dinosaurs from the whole movie is the Velociraptor known as “Blue”.  We don’t want to spoil the plot for those of you who have not seen it yet, but the pack of Velociraptors does play a pivotal role in the film and “Blue” the beta animal in the pack is a bit of a heroine (all the prehistoric animals in the film are female).

“Blue” One of the “Raptors” from “Jurassic World

The "beta" animal in the Velociraptor pack.

The “beta” animal in the Velociraptor pack.

Picture Credit: Universal Studios

 Now we know there has been a lot of discussion about how the “raptors” have been portrayed in the franchise.  After all, they tend to be somewhat oversized (the Jurassic World website states that they are five metres long), they also lack feathers and most palaeontologists agree that the two species of Velociraptor so far described probably were covered in a coat of feathers.  If we put these points aside for the moment, then one of the next questions Everything Dinosaur team members get asked is, “can you recommend a dinosaur model that looks like the Velociraptors from the movie?”

The Papo Velociraptor with its articulated jaw and scaly skin was nominated as a suitable model for anyone wishing to recreate their very own “raptor pack”.

The Papo Velociraptor Dinosaur Model Gets Our Vote

The Papo Velociraptor model closely resembles the "Jurassic World" Velociraptors.

The Papo Velociraptor model closely resembles the “Jurassic World” Velociraptors.

Picture Credit: Universal Studios with additional material from Everything Dinosaur

It seems that other discerning dinosaur model fans are in agreement with us.  One of our Facebook chums Tong from Taiwan very kindly sent us a picture of a Papo Velociraptor that had received a customised paint job to make it look even more like “Blue” from the film.

Papo Velociraptor Dinosaur Model Turned into “Blue”

Customising a model dinosaur.

Customising a model dinosaur.

By Taiwan 小模王 “

Tong told us that he purchased this customised model and what a splendid job the artist has done.  The Papo Velociraptor skin tone really lends itself to having a bespoke paint job.  We have seen a number of re-painted Papo dinosaur models over the years and it is great to see one of the dinosaurs from “Jurassic World” created this way.

“Blue”  Even Has an Articulated Lower Jaw

A "blue" dinosaur.

A “blue” dinosaur.

By Taiwan 小模王 “

We always marvel at the skill of the artists who dedicate their time to creating iconic dinosaur figures and models.  The Velociraptors have appeared in all four of the “Jurassic Park” films and we suspect that they will also have a pivotal role to play in the sequel to “Jurassic World”.  Our thanks to Tong from Taiwan for helping us with this article.  The film “Jurassic World” has taken something like $1.3 billion USD in box office sales since its world-wide release on June 12th, it will very probably end up one of the top five highest grossing films of all time.  It will certainly be vying with the new “Star Wars” film due out later on this year for the most successful film of 2015.

To view Everything Dinosaur’s collection of Papo prehistoric animal models: Papo Dinosaurs

19 06, 2015

Papo Velociraptors Claim to Fame

By | June 19th, 2015|Dinosaur Fans, Movie Reviews and Movie News, Photos of Everything Dinosaur Products, Press Releases|0 Comments

“Jurassic World Raptors” and the Papo Velociraptor Replica

Some of the most exciting scenes in the record breaking dinosaur movie “Jurassic World” involve the pack of “raptors” and the various chase scenes.  Velociraptors, at least over-sized ones anyway, have been a mainstay of the “Jurassic Park” franchise, ever since the first film came out way back in 1993.  Pack hunting and some form of social behaviour has been ascribed to these types of dinosaurs, which as members of the Dromaeosauridae (swift lizards) family, are closely related to modern birds.  In reality, the two species of Velociraptor described to date were much smaller than their movie counterparts, but even so, they would very probably have been aggressive animals and formidable hunters, much feared by even the largest of the herbivores that shared their Asian habitat towards the end of the Cretaceous period.

Which Dinosaur Model Most Closely Resembles the Movie Raptors?

This accolade, we think, goes to Papo for their Velociraptor replica.  The Theropod dinosaurs in “Jurassic World” have been criticised for not reflecting some of the latest thinking with regards to meat-eating dinosaurs. For example, there is an absence of feathers and many palaeontologists now think that the majority of the Theropoda were at least partially feathered.  The Papo Velociraptor dinosaur model is also not feathered.

Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) and a Velociraptor

The Papo Velociraptor model closely resembles the "Jurassic World" Velociraptors.

The Papo Velociraptor model closely resembles the “Jurassic World” Velociraptors.

Picture Credit: Universal Studios with additional material from Everything Dinosaur

Papo, the French model and figure manufacturer, has built up a strong reputation for its excellent replicas.  The company’s dinosaur model range was believed to have been inspired by the first film, “Jurassic Park” that was released in 1993.  The current range consists of over thirty different prehistoric animal models.

To view the full Papo prehistoric animal model range: Papo Dinosaurs and Prehistoric Animal Models

In the film, animal trailer turned dinosaur behaviourist Owen Grady, played by Chris Pratt, leads a pack of Velociraptors, describing himself as the “alpha” member of the pack, Owen is able to exercise some degree of control over the actions of his dinosaurs.  How much control..?  Well, that would be giving away details of the plot and since not all our readers have seen the film yet, we shall say no more.

15 06, 2015

“Jurassic World” in Record Weekend

By | June 15th, 2015|Dinosaur Fans, Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Movie Reviews and Movie News, Press Releases|0 Comments

$511 Million USD in Cinema Ticket Sales in a Weekend for Jurassic World

“Jurassic World” directed by Colin Trevorrow and co-produced by Steven Spielberg has become the first film in history to take more than $500 million dollars (USD) at the box office on its opening weekend.  The film, the fourth in the Jurassic Park franchise, had been scheduled for release in the summer of 2014, but script issues and filming delays put back the release of the movie.  Any doubts the executives at Universal Studios had about “Jurassic World” were very quickly dispelled as advance ticket sales for the opening weekend had hinted that the lure of genetically engineered dinosaurs was going to result in huge financial rewards for the studio.

“Jurassic World” Opened Globally to Record Box Office Ticket Sales

Global success for dinosaur themed block-buster.

Global success for dinosaur themed block-buster.

Picture Credit: Getty Images

The film was the most popular screening in all sixty-six countries where it was released over  the weekend.  In the United States it took some $204 million dollars (USD), box office receipts in China are estimated to have exceeded $100 million (USD), whilst in the United Kingdom and Ireland ticket sales were around the $30 million (USD) mark.  According to media reports, the success of “Jurassic World” in America makes it the second highest grossing opening weekend for a film in the United States (the record is held by the 2012 release of Marvel’s “The Avengers” which took $207.4 million (USD) in its first weekend.

A Monster Hit in the Cinemas

Huge Mosasaur about to tackle "jaws".

Huge Mosasaur about to tackle “jaws”.

Picture Credit: Universal Studios

 Global box office ticket sales have been estimated at around the $511.8 million dollars mark (USD), that equates to approximately  £325 million (GBP), even the giant Masrani conglomerate, the fictitious global concern that supposedly owns the theme park where the movie is set, would be impressed with sales figures such as these.

The first “Jurassic Park” film was released in 1993.  Everything Dinosaur team members think that this first movie (for the time being), remains Universal Studio’s highest grossing film ever, with over $921 million (USD) generated at the box office worldwide.  This figure was further boosted by cinema receipts from the twentieth anniversary edition released in 2013.  To put these cinema sales into context, the top grossing film in the United States and Canada last year (box office receipts), was “Guardians of the Galaxy which took some $333.1 million (USD), “Jurassic World” achieved over sixty percent of this sales figure in just its opening weekend.  “Guardians of the Galaxy” starred Chris Pratt, who plays Owen Grady, the Velociraptor behaviourist turned hero of “Jurassic World”.

People Just Love Dinosaurs

What does all this mean?  Put simply, people just love dinosaurs and the bigger and fiercer they are the better.  Perhaps this film will inspire the next generation of scientists, a spokesperson from Everything Dinosaur commented:

“Jurassic World, was always going to be a huge success in all likelihood.  The film puts people and dinosaurs together and that is a winning combination that has been proved time and time again throughout cinema history.”

A Sequel?

The success of the film does not just mean a rekindling of our love affair with summer block-busters, it also virtually guarantees that the “Jurassic Park” franchise will continue.  Everything Dinosaur team members predict that there will be a sequel, expect announcements soon and a cinema release of maybe late 2017.

Team members try to make annual predictions about dinosaur discoveries, fossil finds and likely events related to palaeontology at the beginning of each year.  Our first prediction for 2015, was a real no-brainer, we confidently stated that “Jurassic World” was going to be a huge success!

To read Everything Dinosaur’s full list of palaeontology predictions for 2015: Everything Dinosaur’s Predictions 2015

To visit Everything Dinosaur’s website: Everything Dinosaur

5 06, 2015

One Week to “Jurassic World”

By | June 5th, 2015|Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Main Page, Movie Reviews and Movie News|0 Comments

Countdown to “Jurassic World”

Not long to go now before the worldwide release of the film “Jurassic World”.  Team members at Everything Dinosaur are very excited about this and over the last few weeks and months we have been posting up various items of information, news snippets and of course the trailers related to this, the fourth film in the Jurassic Park movie franchise.  Hopefully we have not leaked too many spoilers and we are all looking forward to seeing the film, along with millions of other dinosaur fans.

Snap up a Ticket to Jurassic World

Come and see the "oversized" Mosasaur.

A Mosasaur is featured in the film “Jurassic World”.

Picture Credit: Universal Studios

 We promise not to blog about plot details and to give away too many details about particular scenes in the film.  We shall have to tread a careful path between not spoiling the film for those people who have not seen it and those readers who have requested that we comment on an aspect of this blockbuster.  Please go with us on this, naturally as the weeks and months pass, we can include more information as there is a greater likelihood that the majority of our readers will have watched the film.

3 06, 2015

Jurassic June – Jurassic World and the Velociraptors

By | June 3rd, 2015|Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Movie Reviews and Movie News|4 Comments

Velociraptors Depicted as Pack Hunters in the Jurassic Park Franchise

As we build up to the premier of the eagerly awaited “Jurassic World” movie, the fourth in the “Jurassic Park” franchise, team members at Everything Dinosaur have been writing a series of articles about the prehistoric animals that feature.  Today, we look at a dinosaur that has appeared in all of the films under the “Jurassic Park” brand, the fearsome, formidable Velociraptor.

Involved in all Four Movies – Velociraptor

A stalwart of the "Jurassic Park" franchise.

A stalwart of the “Jurassic Park” franchise.

Picture Credit: Universal Studios

It has been a few years since team members read the original “Jurassic Park” novel, but Velociraptors do feature in the book.  They are depicted as intelligent, cunning and very dangerous pack hunters, themes which have run consistently through all the movies and in “Jurassic World”, the character Owen Grady, played by Chris Pratt has three trained Velociraptors.  Owen regards himself as the “alpha member” of this Velociraptor pack.

However, two big criticisms have been put forward concerning the way the “raptors” are depicted:

  1. They are far to big to be Velociraptors
  2. They don’t have feathers

Let’s briefly deal with these in turn.

Size is Important

The genus Velociraptor currently consists of two species, both of which come from Asia.  Within the Everything Dinosaur database, we cite Velociraptor fossil material coming from Mongolia, China (Inner Mongolia) and Russia.  Although the classification of the Sub-family known as the Velociraptorinae remains fluid with several revisions having been made to dinosaurs regarded as the “raptors” the dromaeosaurids, in the last decade or so, the raptors in the film and in the original book, written by Michael Crichton, are all referred to as Velociraptors.  These animals are depicted as six foot tall dinosaurs.  In reality, this is much bigger than either V. mongoliensis or the more recently described Velociraptor osmolskae.

A Scale Drawing Showing Velociraptor mongoliensis Compared to an Adult Man

Vicious Velociraptor.

Vicious Velociraptor.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

In the novel, first published in 1990, one of the lead geneticists Dr. Henry Wu, a character played by B.D. Wong, in the movie franchise, states that the Velociraptors were created using DNA extracted from amber discovered in Mongolia.  So far so good, but at the time of writing, Michael Crichton would have been aware of the size ranges given for Velociraptors in academic journals, after all, the first scientific description of V. mongoliensis took place in 1924.  Velociraptor was certainly not as big as depicted in the films.  It stood around one metre high and it would have been perhaps 1.8 metres to 2.3 metres long, perhaps a fraction longer.  Most of its body length was made up of that long, straight tail supported by a network of tendons.  Body mass estimates do vary, but a maximum weight of around twenty-five kilogrammes is often cited.  We at Everything Dinosaur tend to air on the more cautious side of the debate, stating a body weight of around fifteen kilos.  That is much lighter than an emu for example, think of a Velociraptor being as heavy as three domestic geese.  Knowing this, you can understand if film executives ended up subjecting Velociraptor to some “Hollywood growth hormones” to make the dinosaurs a little more scary.

The research undertaken by the highly talented Gregory S. Paul is often stated as a reference source for Michael Crichton when he was researching his dinosaur characters.  As Michael prepared to write his book, he may have come across references to a potentially, much larger “raptor” from Mongolia discovered by a joint Mongolian/Russian expedition in 1989 which set out to explore vertebrate fossils in the Upper Cretaceous Bayan Shireh Formation located in south-east Mongolia (Dornogovi Province).  These fossils were scientifically described in 1999, after the book had been published and  the films “Jurassic Park” and the sequel “The Lost World” had been released in cinemas.  The fossils represent a very big dromaeosaurid dinosaur.  It has been named Achillobator giganticus and at around five metres long it represents the biggest “raptor” found to date in Asia.

An Illustration of a Large Dromaeosaurid Dinosaur Like Achillobator

Big dromaeosaurids did live in Mongolia.

Big dromaeosaurids did live in Mongolia.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

So there were certainly some very large, dromaeosaurid dinosaurs about, several species more than six foot tall.

No Feathers

Although the evolutionary relationship between meat-eating dinosaurs and birds has been debated for over 140 years, at the time of writing “Jurassic Park”, very little fossil evidence had been put forward that added weight to the feathered dinosaur theory.  The first papers detailing proto-feathers and quills were published in the late 1980’s but it was not until the rich fossil finds of Liaoning Province in China began to be much more widely publicised that feathers in dinosaurs came to wider public attention.

A number of feathered dinosaurs are known, the majority of them meat-eating Theropods.  It had been thought that only the lizard-hipped Theropoda, those dinosaurs that were more closely related to birds had feathers.  Recent discoveries, have challenged this theory and feathers have been identified in Ornithischian (bird-hipped dinosaurs) too.

To read about a recent discovery of a feathered, bird-hipped dinosaur: Kulindadromeus – Did All Dinosaur Have Feathers?

The first dromaeosaurid dinosaur described with feathers was Sinornithosaurus millenii which was named and described in 1999, nine years after “Jurassic Park” was first published and two years after the film sequel “The Lost World” had been released.  As Velociraptor fossils are associated with coarse and medium grained sandstones, feather preservation may not have been possible in this substrate.  No feathered Velociraptor specimens have ever been found.  Feathers in the Velociraptorinae Sub-family are inferred as related dromaeosaurid dinosaurs are known to have possessed feathers.

Forgiving the Film Makers

What we can say about the Velociraptors depicted in the book and the subsequent films, is that they are seen as social, pack animals, which are very agile and fearsome predators.  The fossil evidence uncovered so far certainly supports this.  Fossilised tracks suggest pack behaviour in these types of dinosaur to read about this: “Raptor” Tracks Indicate Pack Behaviour

Our knowledge of these types of dinosaurs is growing all the time.

To read about a newly described (May 2015) species of North American Dromaeosaur: Saurornitholestes sullivani – Sniffing Out a New Dinosaur Species

Can we recommend top quality Velociraptor models for dinosaur fans?  Check out the Velociraptor model here: Check out the Dinosaur Models Here

Similar to the Velociraptors Seen in the Movies

Papo Velociraptor Dinosaur Model

Papo Velociraptor Dinosaur Model

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

20 05, 2015

The Growth Spurts of Indominus rex

By | May 20th, 2015|Dinosaur Fans, Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Main Page, Movie Reviews and Movie News, Press Releases|0 Comments

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.

16 05, 2015

The Prehistoric Animals of Jurassic World – Indominus rex

By | May 16th, 2015|Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Movie Reviews and Movie News|0 Comments

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.

11 05, 2015

Jurassic World Dinosaurs are not Accurate – So What!

By | May 11th, 2015|Dinosaur Fans, Movie Reviews and Movie News, Press Releases|1 Comment

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.

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