The dinosaur helping Jurassic Park become a reality

National Geographic The science behind Jurassic Park’s all fictional, right – surely you could never really extract DNA from a long-dead dinosaur…

Well now, although it is still unlikely, the chances have been raised by the discovery of a fossilized dinosaur in the US. Almost all other dinosaur finds are skeletons, meaning that this fossilized specimen is a very rare find. It was actually discovered several years ago, but it is only now being fully excavated and analyzed.

National Geographic Dakota, as the dinosaur is called, lived around 65 million years ago – making it one of the last dinosaurs ever to live. It was about 30 feet long from nose to tail, and weighed in at around 3.5 tons. It could run faster than T-Rex, making it quite a fearsome beast.

To become fossilized it must have been buried very quickly and not exposed to water, where micro-organisms could easily break it down. And before that it had to escape predators and degradation by by the weather. The conditions required for fossilization are so unlikely to happen that this is only the fourth fossilized dinosaur ever discovered – though this one is thought to be much more useful than the rest because of the excellent preservation of its skin.

North Dakota, where the fossilized dino was found

Although this particular fossil does not contain any DNA, it raises the possibility of one day finding some DNA that could be used to bring the dinosaurs back to life. Not too long ago everyone would have said that dinosaurs could only ever be found as skeletons – they would never be fossilized.

Now that fossilized specimens have been found, it raises an intriguing question: could we one day find dinosaur remains that contain fully intact, useful genetic information? And if so, could we use that genetic information to bring Jurassic Park back to life? I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.


2 Responses

  1. I can just picture it now: dinosaur farms. Just think of all the meat you could get from one of those animals! On the down side, think of all the grazing land you’d lose, and that’s only if you clone a vegetarian. Eek.

  2. I never thought of the meat idea. I’m not sure whether anyone would really bring dinosaurs back to life – in any case they would want to do decades of testing before your average cattle farmer moved on to dinosaurs. It’s a good idea though! 😆

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