I was planning on watching Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom for entertainment purposes. Now, though, I’m planning on hauling my family to the local multiplex this weekend for educational purposes. As in, I want my family to be educated about how to survive a dinosaur attack. You see, scientists are confident that within the next five years (ten years, at the latest) they will be able to recreate dinosaurs.
Dr. Jack Horner, the famous paleontologist who is the inspiration for the famed fictional paleontologist Dr. Alan Grant, spoke to People magazine about the possibility of recreating dinosaurs. Besides being a consultant on the Jurassic Park franchise, Dr. Horner is a real-life, working scientist. So, we should listen with at least some interest rooted in self-preservation when he reveals that he’s figured out how to genetically engineer a dinosaur.
On the plus side (if there can be a “plus side” to recreating dinosaurs), Dr. Horner and his team are starting small. They’re genetically engineering chickens into dinosaurs.
Yes, you read that last sentence correctly.
Dr. Jack Horner and his team of real-life scientists are busy making chicken-dinosaurs that have teeth. They call their terrifying creation a Chickenosaurus.
Dr. Horner explained to People that, “Of course birds are dinosaurs, so we just need to fix them so they look a little more like a dinosaur.”
I admit that sounds a little less terrifying than what we’re all going to see this weekend in Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. But allow People’s description of Dr. Horner’s work to squash whatever relief you felt:
[Horner] notes that the four major distinctions between birds and dinosaurs are: “Dinosaurs had long tails, arms, and hands – and through evolution they’ve lost their tails, and their arms and hands have turned into wings. Additionally, their whole snout has changed from the velociraptor-look to the bird-like beak morphology.”
Therefore, to change a bird back into dinosaur, Horner is working to flick the right genetic switches “in such a way that we’ll get these ancestral characteristics back.”
In what Horner calls a definitive “proof of concept,” a group at Harvard and Yale “just recently, within the last few weeks, were able to transform the head of a bird back to actually reverse-engineer the bird’s snout back into a dinosaur-like snout.”
Currently, the doctor is working on retro-engineering the tail portion back into existence.
This is not going to end well. First, it’s chickens. Being scientists, Dr. Horner and his team will not be content to stop with their Chickenosaurus. They will then genetically engineer a Chickenosaurus into something bigger, faster, and, most likely, meaner. Eventually, they will end up with something that resembles a T-Rex, both in size and temperament. At that point, none of us will need to wonder if a zombie apocalypse could actually happen because we’ll all be living in the midst of a dinosaur apocalypse.
We better hope that Chris Pratt stays in shape between now and then.