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Welcome to Jurassic Park?

June 15, 2015

Scientists say that they’re closer than ever to bringing back dinosaurs. What could possibly go wrong?

DinosaurAs you read these words, audiences all over the world are watching dinosaurs tear their way across a theme park in Jurassic World. You would think that after the first three films that Ingen’s scientists would have finally learned their lesson. With the notable exception of The Flintstones, fictional humans don’t typically get along very well with gigantic lizards. But what about real humans and real dinosaurs?

Earlier this year, scientists at Imperial College in London revealed that they discovered intact red blood cells and collagen fibers in a 75-million-year-old fossil found in Canada about a century ago. In the Jurassic Park movies, scientists use DNA found inside of dino blood from hungry mosquitos that got themselves stuck inside of amber millions of years ago. This recent discovery cuts out the middleman—similar samples might be available in fossilized dinosaur bones all over the world.

So far, the crew at Imperial College has analyzed a claw from a meat-eating theropod, a few bones from a duck-billed dinosaur, and a toe bone from a creature similar to a triceratops. All of the fossils they looked at were in pretty poor shape. This means that bones in better condition could yield even more useful samples. This isn’t the first time that a scientist has retrieved this sort of material from a fossil. In 2005, a researcher at North Carolina State University extracted transparent collagen from a T. Rex skeleton.

There are many more hurdles that scientists will need to clear before we’ll need to worry about a hungry t-rex terrorizing the streets of San Diego. The biggest problem: Convincing museum curators to let them swipe snap a femur or another bone off their dinosaur skeletons in order to extract more specimens. As significant as these recent discoveries are, scientists have yet to find any “live” dino DNA. Until they do that, theme park workers and attendees have more to fear from sunburns than an Indominus Rex.

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