Dear Science, Please Stop Trying to Ruin 'Jurassic Park'
We’ve heard it all already. Velociraptors weren’t that big. Dinosaurs were probably feathered rather than scaly. You probably can’t recreate dinosaurs from mosquitoes preserved in amber. Fine. We get it.
But now, science is coming for the T-Rex, the dinosaur John Hammond ASSURED us could clock in at about 32mph. That’s right, the fearsome sprinter that chased down a jeep as The Blessed Goldblum helpfully (and not at all redundantly) urged Muldoon, ‘must go faster, must go faster,’ is now believed to be sadly unequipped for sprinting.
Tyrannosaurus rex, one of the largest land predators ever to have lived, could not have broken into a run without its leg bones shattering, according to new research.
The findings imply that T. rex wouldn’t have been been a high-speed pursuit predator, and would probably have killed its prey either by ambushing them or by engaging in long, slow races with other less-than-athletic dinosaurs.
Researchers at the University of Manchester created a detailed anatomical computer model of the 7-ton dinosaur to calculate the load on its skeleton at various speeds and gaits. They found that its skeleton was perfectly capable of moving in a run - defined as having both feet off the ground at the same time - but if it had ever actually done so, its bones would have shattered. The study is published in the open-access journal PeerJ.
Is nothing sacred any more?
So T-Rex was much more likely to be an ambush predator rather than one that chases its prey? That’s funny, because I’d put T-Rex’s stealthy hiding skills right up there with its nose-scratching ability. Sure, we all have hidden talents, but expecting a T-Rex to blend in, even in a forest, is a pretty mind-blowing new development. It’s not like they can tip-toe up behind you. (Unless they are saving you from raptors, in which case they can sneak into a building remarkably well.)
Considering how long ago the dinosaurs died out, the field is actually pretty fast moving, and there are developments fairly regularly. I like it when writers get a chance to incorporate this in their work. For example, the whole ‘T-Rex can’t see you if you don’t move’ philosophy was widely debunked after the first film and before Crichton published The Lost World, and so it became a little joke in the second book. The good guys watched as one of the bad guys got eaten for not being up to date with his research. Turns out, T-Rex can see fine, he just isn’t always hungry. In Crichton’s world, you stay abreast of new research, or you die screaming.
Sometimes the ‘creative science’ of the books and the movies provides some leeway when it comes to clashes with real science, or can just be forgiven as interesting use of the imagination. These are genetically modified recreations, not the genuine article. That frog DNA was pretty important… Making the velociraptors bigger was a creative decision that made them even more terrifying, though they were scary enough already. I remember looking at the dinosaur book that my dad owned when I was a kid, and reading about how velociraptors could have been the dominant species on the planet had they not been wiped out. There was a sketch, a mock up of what an evolved raptor might look like. It was like some sort of cross between raptor and human. It was the stuff of nightmares. So even the ‘raptors can talk’ developments of the third movie seemed vaguely plausible to me.
But the running T-Rex has become too fixed in our collective consciousness to accept this new development easily. Sprinting T-Rex has been part of too many set-pieces for that. Sure, she’s got long legs, so she would cover a lot of ground quickly even at a walking pace. Does this new research make it more plausible that you can out-run her even if you’re wearing heels?
Will the writers of Jurassic World 2 do what Crichton did, and turn this new research into a knowing joke? Perhaps the island’s resident T-Rex, who is now presumably getting on a bit, will have to maintain a more stately and dignified pace in the new movie. Maybe she needs a walker. But with those arms, how will she push it? THE FILM’S RUINED.
Here’s a Goldblum gif to cheer you up: