Jurassic World has Royal Tyrrell paleontologist dreaming up scariest dinosaur hybrid
Indominus rex may not be as terrifying as Francois Therrien's dino mashup
There's no doubt about it — the star of the next film in the Jurassic Park franchise looks pretty darn scary.
In Jurassic World, which opening across Canada this weekend, scientists create the killing machine by combining the genetic traits of dinosaur and modern-day species.
- Jurassic World fans gorge on new, longer trailer
- Jurassic World's scientific advisor on bringing dinosaurs back
But could they have made Indominus even more terrifying?
Francois Therrien, a curator of dinosaur palaeoecology at the Royal Tyrrell Museum in Drumheller, Alta., thinks so.
If Therrien could splice and dice together the DNA of a few ancient reptiles, he would choose traits from four dinosaurs:
- T.rex: the "king of killing machines."
- Allosaurus for its freakishly big hands.
- Velociraptor for its ability to run fast on land.
- Stegosaurus for its spiky armour.
Hollywood filmmakers were right to incorporate characteristics from Tyrannosaurus rex into Indominus rex, says Therrien.
"It was able to generate a bite force close to 15 times of that of an alligator."
Therrien says he would also use T. rex for his dinosaur hybrid, but only the head.
"You definitely need something to replace those puny little forearms."
He says that's where allosaurus comes in, with its big grasping hands and curved claws.
For the legs, Therrien picked velociraptor, which scientists believe was one of the speediest dinosaurs on land.
Then, he would add a bit of armour to his mad-scientist creation.
"Why not throw in some stegosaurus spikes on the tail, just for good measure?"
Bringing back dinosaurs
But is it even possible to resurrect these beasts?
Even if you came across an ancient mosquito with a belly was full of dinosaur blood, the short answer is "no," says Therrien.
"Even though amber looks very solid, in reality it's full of pores and gas that can probably percolate through the amber disintegrating the DNA."
And even though a Korean biotech company is going ahead with plans to bring back the woolly mammoth, Therrien says dinosaur DNA is just way too old.
- Wolly mammoth cloning attempt revives ethical debate
- Dinosaur blood cells, proteins found in crummy Alberta fossils
"DNA will decay over time and past 1.5 million years, all DNA is practically gone. At least gone beyond any level where it can be recovered in significant amounts and clone anything."
Hollywood's interpretation of dinosaurs
When the Jurassic World trailer came out, several blogs emerged with grumblings about the scientific inaccuracies in the film.
Therrien himself would have liked to see some feathers on the new Jurassic dinosaurs because palaeontologists now know most of the species had them.
- Jurassic World trailer sends dinosaur buffs into a tizzy over 'scientific inaccuracies'
- Feathers originated as dinosaur whiskers, U of A experts speculate
"Hollywood went with the scaly kind, which is way we thought of them in '70s."
However, Therrien is quick to note that Jurassic World is a science fiction movie and not a documentary.
"They tried to get some things right, some things in the realm of possible, but at the same time it's just a Hollywood movie."
Jurassic Park movies give museum a boost
Therrien says the Royal Tyrrell Museum benefitted greatly when the first Jurassic Park movie came out in 1993.
"Relative to the previous year we had a 25 per cent increase in visitation. Almost 100,000 more people came out."
He says the new movie will "definitely have an impact" on admission sales at the Royal Tyrrell, but doesn't think it will be as crazy as 20 years ago.