Welcome to Jurassic Park. As we open the gates to this zoo of previously extinct creatures, how would you expect the dinosaurs behind them to look? For those who have read or watched “Jurassic Park,” the image of a dinosaur may have already been planted in your mind. Your perception might be plagued by the gruesome scenes of park rangers becoming easy meals, or the film’s iconic theme tune might resonate in your head as you envision herds of long-necked beasts parading across the land. With great species diversity, the thrill of this dinosaur park cannot be denied. But can a Jurassic Park really happen?
When Michael Crichton first conceived the “Jurassic Park” story in the late 1980s, one of the last things he wrote was perhaps the most significant. How would the scientists in the story obtain the DNA needed to create a theme park of dinosaurs? This would be the key to the entire plot, giving the story a feeling of scientific realism. Eventually, Crichton was inspired by a scientific paper he read, according to an interview with paleobiologist George Poinar, Jr. in an interview with Science Friday.
The paper, published in the journal Science in 1982, referenced a fly that had been found preserved inside hardened tree resin. Somehow, at the end of its life, the fly had ended up submerged in this resin time capsule. This was not just the stroke of genius that led to the creation of this fictional land, but a real-life discovery. Together the story of “Jurassic Park” and the science at the center of the tale would inspire the next generation of paleontologists, opening the world’s imagination to dinosaurs.