"Jurassic Park 4" Disses Science, Showing Dinosaurs Without Feathers

We’ve discovered that dinosaurs had feathers, but Jurassic Park 4 will ignore this fact.

Following a slew of bad sequels, it’s easy to forget that the original Jurassic Park was a triumph of Hollywood and of science. A far cry from Godzilla’s giant fantasy monsters, Jurassic Park’s intelligent, breathing creations were a groundbreaking moment in CGI, and proof that entertainment could actually recreate a world that our best paleontologists could only sketch in colored pencil. The film leveraged our best science with our best technicians, and created a piece of historical magic in the process.

So it’s particularly gut-wrenching that Jurassic Park 4’s director (the same guy behind the brilliant Safety Not Guaranteed) will apparently ignore the two decades of research since. As Nat Geo’s Brian Switek points out, multiple findings point to a totally different aesthetic paradigm for dinosaurs. Namely, they were covered in feathers:

Three years after the first Jurassic Park debuted, paleontologists announced that the small theropod Sinosauropteryx was covered in a fine coat of fuzzy protofeathers. This was just the initial drop in a flood of feathery dinosaur discoveries which confirmed that a wide variety of dinosaurs bore archaic forms of plumage, from simple filaments to asymmetrical feathers that would have allowed them to fly. And not only did these discoveries confirm the fact that birds are one lineage of dinosaurs, but that many bird traits—such as feathers—evolved long before the first avians took to the air.

Velociraptor was definitely a feathery dinosaur, and Tyrannosaurus probably was, as well. In fact, other dinosaurs more distantly-related to birds—such as Triceratops—at least sometimes sported swaths of bristles, quills, or similar body coverings in addition to the pebbly tubercles of their skin. Dinosaurs were far stranger and flashier than anyone expected.

No doubt, the entire Hollywood machine is likely responsible for this decision, from the market testing of which dinosaur IP looks best on Taco Bell cups, to the mildewy collection of 100,000 velociraptor masks rotting away since the threequel in some warehouse deep in China.

Even still, it’s a downright unethical maneuver to ingrain the next wave of young minds with a dated vision of history. And it’s a shame that the franchise is so stuck in its own aesthetic that it forgets what made Jurassic Park great in the first place—not its leathery scales—but its window into a world that existed 200 million years ago.

Then again, things could always be worse.

Read more here.

[Hat tip: The Verge]

[IMAGE: Tyrannosaurus via Shutterstock]

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  • Andy Harness

    Acampinsdino is correct, if it's not a reboot, it would be stupid and careless of the people working on this film to add feathers to their dinosaurs to appeal to recent scientific discoveries. If this were a movie about real dinosaurs and not "genetically engineered theme-park monsters" you would have a legitimate complaint in your article. But you have a major flaw in your understanding of what Jurassic Park is.

    The lore of the movies and books say these dinosaurs were not the real prehistoric giants of 65 million years ago. They had frog DNA mixed in with them, so the lack of feathers could be a result of that or even more genetic meddling because in the books they did make several references to being able to fine-tune and there is actually a part of the book where John Hammon and Dr. Wu have a huge discussion over whether or not their dinosaurs should fit the common perceptions of the people or be more like they were in the past.

    The animals in Jurassic Park could change sex in a single sex environment and were bald. Even in the first movie and book they were called a perversion of science by Ian Malcom and that was implied by Dr. Wu.

    Why try to make them real when they never were?

    People drink Yoo-Hoo, even though it's accepted that chocolate milk is made with MILK, not water.

    You want to save the minds of children from thinking dinosaurs were naked transvestites? Let them watch the Discovery Channel.

    You want them to grow up loving dinosaurs like we did? Let them watch Jurassic Park.


  • Acampinsdino

    As cool as it would be for Jurassic Park 4's dinosaurs to be more accurate, unless its a reboot, that create some really large continuity problems. It would make no sense if the dinosaurs in this movie looked different from the ones in the previous movies.

  • Rush

    People might be forgetting that in the movies, the dinos' DNA was blended with frogs/reptiles to fill in gene sequence gaps.  They're 'mutated' dinos anyway, not purebred, so why all the hubbub about staying 'true' to their original feathered form? 

  • Chris

    There is no evidence what so ever that T-Rex had feathers. Let's get this absolutely straight. Large animals like t-rex would be unlikely to require feathers. The only dinosaurs even approaching the body mass of T-Rex which has any likelihood of having feathers is in the oviaraptidae family and the smaller yutyranus.
    yutyranus is closely related to the t-rex, however it was only half a ton in weight and had three fingers rather than two. This suggests a branching much earlier. skin impressions from a T-Rex specimen nicknamed "Wyrex" discovered in Montana in 2002, as well as most other large tyrannosaurid specimens, show mosaic scales. 

    The simple reason for presuming this is that there is a large energy expenditure in growing feathers. The primary reason that feathers would become an evolutionary advantage are that they increase body heat. There are other advantages such as display but it is unlikely that this alone would actually increase the chances of a mutation like that being successful. At the top of most food chains throughout dinosaur history the top tyranossaur would be the biggest so the need for feathers probably ended before even Allosaurs which were around 25 million years before any feathered dinosaurs were discovered.The velociraptor had feathers. Many dinosaurs had feathers and in some cases such as sinosauropteryx we even know the colour. But there is no evidence that tyrannosaurus had feathers. If you are going to pick on the factual correctness of Jurassic Park, there are much bigger issues to address: 1) Velociraptors were the size of turkeys anyway2) Despite claims that velociraptor were hugely clever they weren't even in possession of the biggest brain of any dinosaur and 90% of their brain power would have been used processing visuals as their eyes were so big. They certainly couldn't operate door handles3) There has never been a vocal coord preserved from a velociraptor. Chances are that like crocodilia they had no vocals what so ever and hissed. This is just idol supposition though as we don't even know where their vocals chamber was actually located. A dog's vocal chamber was used in the film4) There is no evidence that dilophosaurus had a neck frill or spitted venom. Other dinosaurs almost certainly had venom as several have been discovered to have grooves in their teeth. Dilophosaurus had neither of these and was also depicted much smaller in the movie so it could get into the car and to destinguish it from the velociraptors. Basically my biggest dispute with this article and several others is that there is no evidence of all dinosaurs having feathers. It's presumption for the most part and just because someone suggested that T-Rex may have had feathers, until a massive fossil with feathers is discovered it's pretty safe to assume it didn't.  

  • Sean


    Jurassic Park is not a science documentary on the Discovery Channel. Velociraptors were never portrayed at appropriate scale, either. No one cared in 1993, in 1998, or since that raptors are more like chickens. Which brings me to a second point: a slew of bad sequels? The first two films were both as loosely based on their respective book. They were meant to be different films with a different focus, and I think they both stand as awesome. It's a bad Star Wars mentality to diss something just largely based on your personal expectations of continuing to get the same exact thing. The problem with the third movie was that there was never any script, and so it was handed off to another director. It is universally acknowledged that the studio cobbled something together.

    The success of this new story doesn't hinge on feathers but rather great people being genuinely interested in making the right film for the original audience. If they do that, which is possible, then it will be a success.

  • aminimalanimal

    Got to say, I've been eagerly awaiting the day our entertainment updates itself to have proper dinosaurs.

    Eagerly. You have no clue. I was hoping the remake of Jurassic Park (now in 3D) would correct this and I'd get to see something closer to the truth. I grew up loving a lie, as I'm sure this director has, and I'm ready to be rid of it and love a more accurate version of Earth's historic beasts.

  • The person

    As the canon video game, and Dr. Wu, suggests: These dinosaurs are not real dinosaurs. They were spliced together with amphibian DNA. It is acknowledged by Dr. Sorkin that the dinosaurs were engineered to be appealing. Sorkin displayed much resentment to this fact and even tried to reverse the lysine deficiency.

    The film lore always pointed to the fact that the dinosaurs were human made, and not "God" made.

  • Adam Hopkins

    It could actually be a cost thing - as the modelling and rendering of realistic feathers on that sort of scale would be a large undertaken that would warrant several more artists.

    Whilst I admit there probably is the money to fund this isn't Hollywood being a bit more careful with the pennies at the minute.