It all started when a phone rang in Bozeman, Montana, in the early 1990s. Hollywood was at stake. On the other end of the line: Paleontologist Jack Horner, a dinosaur expert at the Rocky Mountain Museum. Even before Michael Crichton’s novel “Jurassic Park” was published, Steven Spielberg had secured the film rights. What he needs now is a scientific advisor who knows about giant lizards.
The problem of the genetic code of the dinosaur
Jack Horner agreed—and quickly winds down the sails of the film’s basic premise: “We can’t get DNA from a dinosaur,” Horner says. Strands of DNA lasted no more than a few thousand years. Dinosaurs became extinct 65 million years ago. “Maybe one day we will find tiny fragments of dinosaur genetic material,” Horner hopes. “But to fill it in, we don’t have anything better than bird DNA.” The genetic code will be so bad that in the end only one bird will come out.
But in the movie, Jurassic Park creator John Hammond manages to breed dinosaurs by discovering healthy DNA in dinosaur blood. The blood came from mosquitoes that were feeding on ancient lizards. The insects, in turn, were encased in resin and kept in amber largely intact. Breeding work can begin — at least in the imagination of the movie.
Mistakes in “Jurassic Park” Part 1 of the series
But even expert advice does not protect against mistakes. When the first “Jurassic Park” movie was released in 1993, paleontologists still assumed that birds of prey looked like lizards on two legs. Today, after nearly 30 years, the research community is getting smarter. “We now know that Velociraptor had feathers,” notes paleontologist Stephen Brusatte. “They really looked like some kind of strange bird with wings instead of arms.” Scientists can now see this from real fossils. The problem, however, was that these fossils were not discovered until several years after the first Jurassic Park movie. And so dinosaurs lacked feathers – until now.
Stephen Brusatte is Jack Horner’s successor as science advisor for the latest film in the Jurassic World 3 franchise. “It always bothered me a bit that this old idea of green-gray scaly dinosaurs has bypassed all the movies in the Jurassic Park series,” says the dinosaur expert. “But when I was asked to be a science advisor in Jurassic World 3, I was promised the first time we met that some dinosaur would wear feathers in the future. I said yes straight away!”
Jurassic World Consultant: Expertise on Demand
When not consulting Hollywood, Stephen Brusatte works at the University of Edinburgh’s School of Earth Sciences. He didn’t even have to be present during the filming of “Jurassic World 3”. Provide knowledge upon request. “As a consultant, it’s not my job to set a plot,” Brusatte explains. The script was not written or even considered. Instead, he strives to bring dinosaur-related expertise into the film. His job was to be available when producers had questions. “And they took advantage of it!”
Movie-goers can now decide for themselves how realistic all this is when they go to “Jurassic World” – perhaps for the last time.