Can Dinosaurs Come Back?

Dinosaurs are a special group of prehistoric animals that roamed the Earth long ago during the Mesozoic era. They went extinct about 65 million years ago when an asteroid bigger than Mount Everest hit the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico, as highlighted by the documentary titled “When Dinosaurs Roamed America”. The asteroid is thought to have been between 10 and 15 kilometres wide, but the velocity of its collision caused the creation of a much larger crater, 150 kilometres in diameter – the second-largest crater on the planet. But the question is: can these magnificent ancient creatures be brought back from the dead? If yes, how hard will it be? Is it just like Jurassic Park and world movies? Are they based on real science? Or is it for entertainment purposes?

How Scientifically Accurate is Jurassic World?

People will remember how the roaring dinosaurs of the Jurassic franchise shocked us out of our seats, giving us what we have dreamt of ever since we knew the word “dinosaur”, bringing these ancient giants to life on the big screen. But scientists have agreed that there are some flaws in these movies. The first flaw being is the way the beasts were depicted and portrayed. As it turns out scientists debate about what the dinosaurs looked like, but the way filmmakers modelled them wasn’t the way scientists pictured them. For example, the Velociraptor was thought to have feathers just like birds, but in the movies, it was just like any other reptile, just skin and scales and no feathers, hair, or fur. The second flaw is the way the dinosaur genome (DNA) was obtained. In the movies and the game JWE (Jurassic World Evolution), it is shown that the dinosaur DNA is obtained from their fossils. However, DNA breaks over time and the dinosaurs went extinct about 66 million years ago. Since so much time has passed it is unlikely that any dinosaur DNA still exists. While dinosaur bones can survive millions of years, the dinosaur genome certainly cannot. So, no, the movies along with the game are not scientifically accurate in the way they drew the dinosaurs and the way that dinosaur DNA was obtained and put together to resurrect a fallen legend.

Could We Clone a Dinosaur?

So it looks like cloning a dinosaur is off the table, but the alternative way to resurrect an extinct animal is to reverse-engineer one. This involves starting with the closest related living reptile (crocodiles and alligators) and working backwards to ancient reptiles. This would be an attempt to reverse-engineer about 66 million years of evolution. An attempt that presents caveats scientifically and ethically-making things to put in a zoo or an amusement park like Jurassic World isn’t the answer. So for now dinosaurs are probably going to remain safely in the past. But using genetic engineering to bring back extinct animals might seem reasonable in certain circumstances.

“Dinosaur track” by mcdlttx is licensed under CC BY 2.0

However, recreating a dinosaur or any extinct animal can throw up some ethical dilemmas. You could be interested in the genetic basis for various living things or in sequences of correlated characters – for example, if you grow teeth, do you automatically grow claws as well? But an animal that died out naturally, perhaps 150 million years ago, is not going to recognise anything in this world if you bring it back. For instance, take a herbivore, the trees and grass that it used to eat 150 million years ago is different from modern grass and trees, so it wouldn’t realize anything from its new environment and it would probably starve to death. Jurassic Park may not have got the dinosaur resurrection quite right, some scientists conclude, but it did make a worthy point as Dr Ian Malcolm says: “just because you can doesn’t mean you should ”. But some respectable scientists think it could be possible to reverse engineer a prehistoric beast. After all, finding the raw material to recreate a dinosaur poses a tremendous challenge, to say the least. To de-extinct a dinosaur you need a source for that dinosaur’s DNA, but all we have are pieces left in stone.

Dinosaurs Can’t Come Back, However. . .

So here it is, dinosaurs never became extinct; they’re living among us because birds did not evolve from dinosaurs nor are they related to them. Believe it or not, they are dinosaurs. Dinosaurs including birds are the survivors of the last four extinction events which are:

  1. Devonian Mass Extinction
  2. Permian Mass Extinction
  3. Triassic-Jurassic Mass Extinction
  4. Cretaceous Mass Extinction: The Cretaceous mass extinction event was a sudden mass extinction that wiped 75 percent of the planet’s living organisms: dinosaurs, birds, mammals etc. This event was the one responsible for ending the reign of one of the most beautiful, magnificent, and downright bizarre animals, the dinosaurs which ruled the earth for approximately 165 million years.

With each extinction, they emerged in more diverse and downright bizarre forms. Regardless, it may be possible that in the next five years that dinosaur might return as some scientists believe, it is also possible that if scientists use the technology that is seen in the Jurassic World movies to help undo some of the extinctions that mankind has seen. Like the extinction of the well known avian dinosaurs such as the dodo, the passenger pigeon, and the northern white rhinoceros. The comeback of DNA that is a few hundred years old from these birds is a far more realistic proposition. It may also be that eggs from closely related living species might just be good enough. In the right conditions, scientists may be able to use them to resurrect some of these species from extinction. In Jurassic Park scientists and geneticists found pieces of dinosaur DNA and filled the missing pieces with frog DNA. However that wouldn’t result in a dinosaur, it would result in a frogosaur, and those bits of frog genome could have some negative effects on the dinosaur’s behaviour as seen in the movie Jurassic World. In which we see the Indominus Rex, a genetically hybrid dinosaur with the base genome of a T-Rex, mixed with DNA of other living organisms such as the frog genome which gave it the ability to camouflage in the trees and for that reason it posed a threat to the ranger team. So it would be logical to use a bird’s DNA which is a dinosaur, and if scientists wish to de-extinct the Tyrannosaurus Rex they would have to use the DNA of an ostrich which is the closest living descendent of the T-rex.

In interpretation, we can tell that resurrecting the dinosaurs right now isn’t such a good idea, since dinosaurs and mankind wouldn’t be able to coexist, because even if we can enclose these ancient beasts in enclosures, it would barely last, as Dr Ian Malcolm said: “life finds a way”. This is true there because certain forces existing nature’s origins and there are also specific boundaries and limits that humans can’t penetrate. But the arrogance of man is to think nature is in their control but it is not. So we would try our best to surpass these limits but eventually, we would be causing our extinction.

Leave a Reply