Nearly 30 years after Jurassic Park was first screened, the beloved franchise is back with its latest film Jurassic World Dominion, which will be released in the UK on Friday. Our favorite characters, such as the Tyrannosaurus rex and Velociraptor, return, and we meet some new ones, such as the giant predator Giganotosaurus.
But how accurate is the depiction of dinosaurs in the film?
In the opening scenes, we are re-introduced to world-renowned paleontologist Alan Grant, who charmed millions of viewers in the first film. Once again, he’s on a dig in Utah, digging up fossils. We see him casually brushing away sand to reveal a perfect dinosaur skeleton.
Excavations like this are currently taking place all over the world. This is how paleontologists learn about dinosaurs. In reality, holes are not so simple. They can carve long hours with hammers and chisels to remove hard rock stone by stone. Even then, we try to avoid damaging bones and leave the work of eliminating fine material from close to the bone until we get back to the lab. It can take several days to remove a single bone from the rock.
Sam Neill as Dr. Alan Grant in the 2001 episode Jurassic Park III.
Thanks to the fossils that paleontologists have found in such digs, we’ve learned much about dinosaurs since the first Jurassic Park movie, including the fact that many relics in the film, especially predators, are supposed to have feathers. This includes the Velociraptor. The film shows the young of many predators, many of whom would probably be covered in downy feathers like young birds today, but none are offered with these feathers.
Other dinosaurs in the film do have feathers. Some feathered dinosaurs, especially early examples, had simple filaments, like a chick’s feathers, rather than an adult bird. Later models (such as birds of prey) developed more complex and mature bird-like feathers.
The mighty herbivore Therezinosaurus, with claws longer than a human child, is covered in fuzzy filaments in the film as it would have been in life. We also encounter a bird of prey covered from head to toe in fully formed, adult bird-like feathers. In that respect, Dominion is perfect.
Another design flaw that Dominion almost gets right is the color of these feathers. Paleontologists have figured out the color of some dinosaur feathers based on preserved pigments. These dinosaurs were mostly black, brown, and red. The bird of prey is usually red.
The Velociraptor is correctly represented with red feathers.y
Unfortunately, there are many elements of dinosaur design that the film does wrong. Take the Giganotosaurus. We see this huge predator with a series of spines along the back of its neck and another in the middle of its back. While Giganotosaurus certainly had a strong backbone, there is no evidence of spines like these, and the design doesn’t look realistic.
Giganotosaurus falls victim to the franchise’s biggest design crime: size. So many of the dinosaurs are just too big. Giganotosaurus appears much bigger than T-rex and can easily defeat him in combat. While there is some debate about which animal was larger, the two were the same size and would have been fairly similar.
The giant ocean predator Mososaurus is also exaggerated in its size. By the film’s end, he is shown to be twice the size of a humpback whale. It would have been slightly smaller than an adult humpback whale.
Giganotosaurus, a prehistoric predator from the Cretaceous Period.
Another key creature in this film is the grasshopper, genetically engineered with “chalk genes” to achieve terrifying dimensions. Giant insects existed in the past — including dragonflies up to a meter across — but in the Carboniferous period, almost twice as long ago as the Period in which the oldest dinosaurs lived.
Oxygen levels in the Carboniferous era were more than 50 percent higher than today’s oxygen levels. With or without the right genes, such large grasshoppers would not be able to survive in current oxygen levels.
Many new beasts are introduced in the film. Our heroes fend off a mob of the Dimetrodon (which has a structure like a sail on its back) and come face to face with a small lizard-like creature with large tusks, known as a dicynodont.
Contrary to popular belief, these animals were not actually dinosaurs. They are members of a group called the synapsids, including the ancestors of mammals. They are more closely related to you and me than to any dinosaur. They lived in a time called the Permian, more than 30 million years before dinosaurs first appeared.
A dimetrodon. Jurassic World Dominion has some merit. The introduction of feathers and new species shows how much we have learned over the past 20 years. However, it is full of errors, speculation, and exaggeration. Museums can be a great place to learn real facts about dinosaurs in a way that Jurassic Park Dominion can never compete.
Be sure to check out this mediocre, boring action movie, but if you want to learn about dinosaurs, I suggest you start elsewhere.
Ben Igielman, a Ph.D. candidate in paleontology, University of Oxford
This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.