Top 20 Scientific Inaccuracies in Jurassic Park

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Top 20 Scientific Inaccuracies in Jurassic Park

VOICE OVER: Rebecca Brayton
The "Jurassic Park" franchise is loaded with epic moments, but not all of them are scientifically accurate. For this list, we'll be looking at various aspects about dinosaurs from this mega franchise that's not in keeping with what we know today. Our countdown includes Stygimoloch Breaking Down Barriers, T-Rexes Weren't Fast, The Triceratops Droppings Are WAY Too Big, Real Dinos Have Feathers, and more!
Transcript

Top 20 Scientific Inaccuracies in Jurassic Park


Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 20 Scientific Inaccuracies in “Jurassic Park.”

For this list, we’ll be looking at various aspects about dinosaurs from this mega franchise that’s not in keeping with what we know today. For the record, we’re not saying the movies are any worse for fudging the details - heck, the first movie is an absolute classic, and some of these discoveries weren’t made until after its release. But it is cool to know just what these dinos were really like.

What’s your favorite dinosaur? Roar about it in the comments!

#20: Stygimoloch Breaking Down Barriers

“Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” (2018)

In the second half of “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom,” Owen and Claire are put in a cell used to hold dinosaurs. Fortunately for them, there’s a Stygimoloch next door with a domed skull primed for headbutting. Owen’s able to goad the creature into breaking through the brick barrier followed by the cage door, but evidence suggests its skull wouldn’t be strong enough to do that, especially with the former obstacle. Furthermore, franchise technical advisor and paleontologist Jack Horner has asserted that “Stygimolochs” didn’t exist, and were rather juvenile versions of the Pachycephalosaurus. There’s additionally been much speculation as to how bluntly Pachycephalosaurus used their skulls.

#19: Baryonyx Snout & Lava

“Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” (2018)

When Claire and Franklin are trapped in an underground control center during a volcanic eruption, the latter fears the approaching dinosaur is the T-Rex. While the Baryonyx that emerges is scary in its own right, it probably should’ve been a little less so. Namely, rather than having the crippling snout of an alligator, the real dinosaur’s was more akin to that of a gharial’s of the crocodilia order. Plus, the lava it touches probably would’ve melted its scales, which would’ve done a lot more than just faze it. Thankfully for Franklin, though, the real deal probably would’ve had greater success with a thinner snout in biting him to pieces in that tube.

#18: Compsognathus as a Pack Hunter

“The Lost World: Jurassic Park” (1997)

Whereas most dinosaurs in “Jurassic Park” are intimidating because of their large sizes and massive teeth, Compsognathus - more commonly called “Compies” - present an alternative danger. Specifically, they team up in large groups to overwhelm their larger prey. However, real-life evidence shows this wasn’t the case whatsoever. Astoundingly, Compies are one of the few dinosaurs whose diets are unequivocally known, as lizard remains have been found within theirs. This leads to the conclusion that they preyed on smaller animals, giving them little reason to form a pack. That isn’t to say though we’re not satisfied when they give the sadistic Dieter Stark his comeuppance.

#17: Stegosaurus Exaggerations

“Jurassic Park” franchise (1993-)

For anyone who grew up loving dinosaurs, the Stegosaurus was an absolute staple among action figure collections. We’re not one to disagree with their coolness, but “Jurassic Park” definitely had a hand in beefing them up a little. In “The Lost World,” the adult Stegosauruses featured appear to be around forty feet in length, a good ten feet greater than even the most generous estimates. In the “Jurassic World” movies, they’re depicted as resting their tails just above the ground rather than in the air. They’re also depicted as running at high speeds from a volcano blast, which would’ve been impossible due to their hind legs being considerably longer than their front. Not that we’re saying we’d rather watch the lava catch up with them…

#16: Carnotaurus Survival Instincts

“Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” (2018)

Speaking of lava, that probably should’ve been the first thing on the Carnotaurus’s mind in this scene. But hey, dramatic tension’s gotta dramatic tension. Whereas every other dinosaur in the stampede is smartly heading for the hills, the protagonists get an added scare when a Carnotaurus comes within its crosshairs. More interested in hunting than surviving, apparently, the Carnotaurus goes after a Sinoceratops before setting its sight on the humans. While its design was praised by paleontologists like Scott Persons, there’s nothing to suggest it would’ve been so malicious as to disregard its own safety. Ah well, leave it to good old Rexy to set things right.

#15: T-Rexes Weren’t Fast

“Jurassic Park” franchise (1993-)

Speaking of Rexy, one of the original movie’s best scenes wouldn’t have been nearly as exciting had she been scientifically accurate. After Dr. Sattler and game warden Robert Muldoon rescue Dr. Malcolm, they’re pursued in their Jeep by the franchise’s flagship Tyrannosaurus rex. It makes for a thrilling sequence, but in actuality it would’ve ended a lot sooner because the T-Rex wouldn’t have been able to keep up. Back in 1993, prevailing wisdom was that T-Rexes could indeed reach speeds up to 40 mph, but since then, estimates have dropped down to around a measly 15. But in the T-Rex’s fairness, there weren’t any Jeeps to contend with back then.

#14: Digging Up a Complete Skeleton Is Not That Easy

“Jurassic Park” (1993)

“Jurassic Park” undeniably inspired a lot of kids to grow up and be paleontologists, and nothing can take that away from it. Still, we’re sure a lot of those kids learned pretty quickly that field work isn’t nearly as straightforward as one of the opening scenes makes it look. Let’s say for a moment that a crew miraculously does find an intact skeleton like the Deinonychus it’s digging up here; the likelihood that it’s so well preserved underneath such a thin layer of sand would be slim. To that extent, the way they go about it with little more than brushes and a little nose-picking is optimistic to say the least. Oh, and that radar device they use? Not quite as accurate as real life.

#13: The Triceratops Droppings Are WAY Too Big

“Jurassic Park” (1993)

The first “Jurassic Park” does a great job of stoking fascination in even the grimier parts of dino life. One scene sees the tour group take a detour to tend to a sick Triceratops. It’s implied that the big gal keeps getting sick every time she eats West Indian lilac. Dr. Sattler then goes rooting around in her droppings for evidence of the plant, and what a mound it is. Not only does it not overpower the team with its stench, but it would make for the largest dinosaur droppings on record by several feet. Some have theorized it’s the work of multiple Triceratops, but there’s little evidence to suggest the creature had anything to do with big herds, let alone big turds.

#12: Tyrannosaurus Rex Roar

“Jurassic Park” franchise (1993-)

What would the “Jurassic Park” franchise be without the iconic Tyrannosaurus rex roar? Well, weirder, according to science. Today, what’s commonly conceived to be a roar largely comes from carnivorous mammals like lions. However, seeing as dinosaurs’ closest living relatives are birds and crocodiles, it’s extremely unlikely that any of them, even one as big as a T-Rex, would’ve roared the way it does in the movies. Rather, the big beasts would’ve made sounds of the closed-mouth variety like coos and deep-throated thrumming. So the next time you see old Rexy roar, think of a really big emu.

#11: Where Did the Extinct Plants Come From?

“Jurassic Park” (1993)

Dinosaurs go through a lot of food. Again, just look at all that Triceratops poop. However those mounds came into being in the canon of the movies, we can say with certainty she eats her vegetables. So what exactly is triceratops breakfast in Jurassic Park? According to the expert, paleobotanist Ellie Sattler, Hammond has somehow managed to resurrect “extinct” plants. But… how? Sure, scientists have regenerated plants from seeds encased in ice 32,000 years ago. But we’re talking 66 million years. We're not saying it won’t be possible one day, maybe? But some explanation would be nice.

#10: Most of the Dinosaurs Aren't from the Jurassic Period

“Jurassic Park” franchise (1993-)

What's in a name? Dinosaurs dominated the Earth during the Triassic, Jurassic, and Cretaceous Periods, all part of the Mesozoic Era. But almost all the stars of “Jurassic Park” are actually from the Cretaceous - including the T-Rex, Velociraptor, Triceratops, and Pteranodons. Mind you, there are some exceptions, such as the Brachiosaurus, Dilophosaurus, and Stegosaurus, which did in fact live during the Jurassic Period. Of course, “Mesozoic Park” doesn’t have quite the same ring… so we get it. But damn it, Hammond, we’re still going to blame this one on you.

#9: Dilophosaurus Was Bigger & Didn’t Have a Neck Frill

“Jurassic Park” (1993)

Is there a dinosaur in “Jurassic Park” with a greater sense of karmic justice and horror-movie timing than the Dilophosaurus? Indeed, we love seeing it dispatch of the greedy Dennis Nedry, but it remains one of the most scientifically inaccurate portrayals in the whole series. For starters, the creatures likely didn’t have that neck frill that made every one of us shudder. Second, the venom-spitting ability is a complete fabrication, nor would any dinosaurs be likely to do that. But perhaps most egregious of all is the fact that the thing was at least twice the size of the one depicted, meaning it couldn’t climb into the front seat of Nedry’s Jeep and give him that last jump scare.

#8: Pteranodons Couldn’t Lift People

“Jurassic Park” franchise (1993-)

The “Jurassic Park” franchise is full of iconic death scenes. But there was one in “Jurassic World” that particularly stood out. The drawn-out death of Claire’s personal assistant, Zara, came out of nowhere and marked a strange tonal shift. But the devil is also in the paleontological details. First off, pteranodons were probably fuzzy rather than scaly, with coats of hair-like filaments. Second, pteranodons didn’t have the grasping foot structure or muscles required to lift a human, nor the strength and wingspan. To be fair, the pteranodons did drop her a few times. Although it didn’t really help…

#7: T-Rex’s Motion Vision

“Jurassic Park” franchise (1993-)

As every fan knows, it’s important to have a velociraptor home escape plan… just in case. When it comes to T-Rex, though, you might think elaborate preparations aren’t required. Just don’t move. Unfortunately, the idea that Tyrannosaurus could only detect motion is pretty far-fetched. In the book, it’s the result of mixing in frog DNA, but in the movie it’s just a T-Rex fact. A study from Professor Kent Stevens of the University of Oregon mapped the dinosaur’s visual capabilities, concluding T-Rex probably had more binocular range than a hawk and better visual clarity than an eagle. It also had a great sense of smell. So maybe… do move.

#6: Everything About the Brachiosaurus Scenes

“Jurassic Park” (1993)

Remember the sense of wonder when we got our first good look at dinosaurs in “Jurassic Park?” Even rewatching the movie today, the majestic brachiosaurus is striking. But according to Professor Bret Bennington of Hofstra University, these ponderous colossi were too front-heavy to rear back and support their weight on their hind legs - a feat which also doesn’t seem to get them any higher. They’re eating eucalyptus leaves, which have toxins poisonous to most animals. And as cute as it is, the Brachiosaurus didn’t chew like a cow, from side to side, and probably just swallowed its meals whole.

#5: Spinosaurus vs. T-Rex

“Jurassic Park III” (2001)

T-Rex is the king of the dinosaurs. Right? One of the most controversial moves in the franchise was having the Spinosaurus defeat the park’s most iconic star. In real life, Spinosaurus and Tyrannosaurus lived in different places and times. But who would have won in a real fight? Spinosaurus was larger, and debate continues over whether T-Rex was really an apex predator or a scavenger. But Spinosaurus’s elongated, crocodilian jaws, conical teeth, and raised nostrils suggest it was adapted for catching fish. It’s tough to know who would win a real fight, but given those long, narrow jaws, the idea that Spinosaurus could have crushed and broken Tyrannosaurus’s thick, muscular neck is pretty unlikely.

#4: The Mosasaurus

“Jurassic World” (2015)

When “Jurassic World” hit screens, paleontologists had mixed reactions to the Mosasaurus. The back frill was new, and there’s a good chance mosasaurs had forked tongues. But the creators had included a true-to-life second row of teeth on the marine reptile’s palate. On the other hand, the scale was all wrong. An infographic in the park lists the Mosasaurus as fifty-five feet long, about the same as the largest fossil ever found. But the Mosasaurus we actually see is enormous. In an interview, Digital Creature Model Supervisor Geoff Campbell admitted he was scaled up to take on Indominus Rex. And, we presume, for reasons of awesomeness.

#3: Real Dinos Have Feathers

“Jurassic Park” franchise (1993-)

We’ve learned a lot about dinosaurs since the original “Jurassic Park.” The main grumble from paleontologists when “Jurassic World” came out was that the dinosaurs were still stuck in the '90s. It is useful for continuity, and there’s always the frog DNA excuse to fall back on. But for the record, we know now that a lot of dinosaurs had feathers. Rather than having scaled, leathery hides, some dinosaurs strutted their stuff in rich plumage, in colors that ranged from muted earthy hues to fabulous shades of red, orange, and iridescent black. Velociraptor and Gallimimus were probably pretty fluffy, and even T-Rex might have sported some luxurious fluff.

#2: Liquid Blood Preserved in Amber

“Jurassic Park” (1993)

It sounds good in theory. Mine ancient amber, extract DNA from mosquitoes, and presto! Dinosaurs . . . adventure . . . running . . . screaming . . . chaos . . . And then, back to the start again. Sadly, even skipping over the facts that the mosquito species shown doesn’t suck blood, and amber from the Dominican Republic doesn’t date back to dinosaur times, there’s a pretty big hitch. DNA degrades over time, and the gaps can’t just be stuffed from some other random animal. The idea that blood would survive that long in fluid form is even more improbable. In real life, the dinosaur DNA would be all mixed up with the mosquito’s. It makes for great science-fiction, but don’t hold your breath for that pet triceratops.

#1: Velociraptors Were the Size of Turkeys

“Jurassic Park” franchise (1993-)

The velociraptors in “Jurassic Park” are super-intelligent murder machines and, what’s worse, tall enough to open kitchen doors. But real velociraptors were much smaller and probably had feathers - basically just really angry chickens. When author Michael Crichton wrote the 1990 novel “Jurassic Park,” he actually based the raptors on their larger cousin, Deinonychus, but didn’t think the name sounded cool enough. Actual velociraptors also didn’t have pronated wrists - their palms faced each other rather than downward. On the bright side, this would have made it a lot harder for them to open doors, although you know what they say…
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