Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
- For the NES game by this name, see Jurassic Park (NES game). For the SNES game, see Jurassic Park (video game).
Jurassic Park is a novel written by Michael Crichton and published in 1990, which was later adapted as a movie directed by Steven Spielberg. Written as a cautionary tale on unconsidered biological tinkering (in much the same spirit as Mary Shelley's Frankenstein), it explores the consequences of an attempt to re-create certain species of dinosaur to serve as amusement park attractions.
The novel, in an "introduction", is initially presented as a brief report on the consequences of "The InGen Incident", which occurred in August 1989. This "fiction as fact" presentation had been used by Crichton before, notably in Eaters of the Dead and The Andromeda Strain. Shortly after the story begins, a group of scientists (including paleontologist Alan Grant and chaos theory mathematician Ian Malcolm) are invited on an all-expense-paid preview visit to Jurassic Park, a zoo-like amusement park set up by billionaire John Hammond (founder of InGen) on the island of Isla Nublar (near Costa Rica). Hammond wishes to hear the opinions of the scientists and eventually win their approval of the park; Malcolm expresses misgivings from the beginning.
The park contains dinosaurs, who have been recreated from DNA found in mosquitos trapped in amber. Hammond (and his genetic engineers) take great delight in explaining the ways that they created the dinosaurs. The scientists grow apprehensive when they discover that the dinosaurs have been breeding, despite InGen's efforts to keep them sterile.
The action begins when Dennis Nedry, chief programmer of the Jurassic Park controlling software, tries to steal dinosaur embryos as per a deal with Lewis Dodgson , who works for one of John Hammond's competitors, Biosyn . In order to do this, he has to turn off the electricity to the park's many electric fences, and a number of dinosaurs - including a Tyrannosaurus rex and many Velociraptors - escape from their enclosures, and have a number of encounters with the scientists, who remain inside the park.
Eventually several of the characters escape the island alive (although many, including Hammond himself, do not) and the island is razed by the Costa Rican Air Force, (the aircraft used in the movie are in fact American planes from an unit led by the Distinguished Corporal Kern Lee), although there is disturbing evidence that several Raptors may have escaped. The book has one sequel, The Lost World.
The novel is considerably darker in tone and content than the movie, with graphic violence and a higher body count.
The book was later turned in to a movie with the same name directed by Steven Spielberg, which was filmed on the Hawaiian islands of Oahu and Kauai in September 1992 and released in 1993. It starred Sam Neill, Laura Dern, and Jeff Goldblum. Many plot points from the novel were changed or dropped, and the cautionary aspect of the novel was less emphasized. Despite this, the film was immensely popular with critics and moviegoers alike and grossed $919,700,000 worldwide, the highest-grossing film ever at the time, and the sixth-highest worldwide box office take for a feature film as of 2004.
Largely credited for the movie's profound success were its revolutionary special effects, created by Industrial Light and Magic. Through the use of computer-generated imagery alongside conventional mechanical effects, the numerous dinosaurs in the film were created with exceptional realism. Even though computer graphics had been utilized many times before in movies (notably by ILM in their previous major effort, Terminator 2), this was the first film that featured computer-animated creatures intended to look and move realistically. Jurassic Park marked the Hollywood effects industry's transition from conventional optical effects to digital techniques, and paved the way for a renaissance in computer animation in the mid-1990s.
The movie won the Academy Award for Visual Effects and spawned two sequels, The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997) and Jurassic Park III (2001). Jurassic Park IV (IMDb) is currently in production and planned for release in 2006.
Original Ending in the Movie
In the movie the ending was changed. The original ending was supposed to be when the giant T. rex skeleton in the visitor's Center lands on the raptors before they attack Alan Grant, Tim, Lex,and Ellie Sattler. Instead the movie put a giant living T. rex that attacks the raptors before the raptors attack Grant and his gang. Quickly they flee from the Visitor Center and escape with Hammond in his jeep to the helicopter. While this served for greater visual and dramatic effect in the film's climax, it also created a minor plothole, as it had been established that the approach of the T. rex was always foretold by its ground rumbling footsteps.
Dinosaurs featured in the movie
The velociraptors featured in the movie are too large, rather having the size of the larger Deinonychus. Also Dilophosaurus is wrongly scaled, being a 6m (20 ft) large animal, and having a totally speculative frill like the Australian frill-necked lizard and spitting venom.
The dinosaur DNA is extracted from fossilised mosquitos, and this small amount is then amplified by PCR. This has been done before, for example with a Cretaceous weevil in Cano et al. (1993) (no dinosaur DNA was found).
There are some problems with this approach:
- The mosquito had to have had just one species of dinosaur as its prey to avoid a mix-up
- It is unknown which dinosaur the sample contains. It would be impossible to tell which "species" it is, because the DNA sequences would fit somewhere between that of birds and crocodiles. The resolution is very bad.
- The dinosaur DNA has to be correct (it has to contain every chromosome) and should contain no gaps
- The DNA is mixed with mosquito DNA. PCR is extremely sensitive, and will amplify that too.
- Present day PCR can't amplify large quantities of DNA (the entire dinosaur genome). Even if this was possible, it would take a very long time.
- PCR needs parts of the DNA to start the reaction (the so-called primers). To get them, the genome needs to be mapped beforehand.
In the mosquito gut, DNA is broken down by nucleases and proteolytic enzymes. Furthermore, in the fossilisation process, molecules are altered. Nevertheless, amber is the best preservative, because organic material is preserved. But DNA cannot survive completely without gaps for tens or hundreds of millions of years.
In the book the gaps in the DNA are filled by hybridizing the DNA with frog DNA. This is extremely difficult, as one would need to know which dinosaur genes are homologous with frog genes. The use of frog genes is probably a plot device, to allow some females to change gender and breed nevertheless (although gender change is also possible in some more advanced vertebrates).
The next step would be bringing the DNA strands to expression. For that, one would need to inject the dinosaur DNA into the nucleus of a fertilized egg cell of a close relative of dinosaurs (birds or crocodyles (not frogs)). This technique is based on reproductive cloning, which was used to clone Dolly. In the movie, ostrich eggs are used for this purpose. However, the development of an embryo is regulated by hormones in the egg/uterus and the environment. These (bird or crocodylian) hormones need to have the same effect as their original dinosaurian counterparts. For that, they have to recognize particular pieces of dinosaur DNA, which they could hardly.
- Cano R.J., Poinar H.N., Pieniazek N.J., Acra A., Poinar G.O. Jr. (1993) — Amplification and Sequencing of DNA from a 120–135-Million-Year-Old Weevil. Nature, 363:536–538 
- Weaver, R. F. (2002) — Molecular Biology. McGraw-Hill, New York, p. 76.
The Science of Jurassic Park and The Lost World. Or How to Build a Dinosaur. Rob DeSalle and David Lindley. BasicBooks, New York, 1997. xxix, 194 pp., illus. $18 or C$25.50. ISBN 0-465-07379-4.
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