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How accurate are the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park? Part 4

Updated: Jan 29, 2023


Back at it again! Here we are in part 4 where we question just how accurate are the dinosaurs inJurassic Park. In this instalment, we'll be looking at Corythosaurus, Spinosaurus, Mosasaurus, Apatosaurus and Allosaurus.


Let's begin!


Corythosaurus

Still from Jurassic Park 3 showing people running through a herd of dinosaurs
Image © Universal Pictures, image is fair use.

In terms of Corythosaurus's screen time in Jurassic Park 3, it's a 'blink and you'll miss it' kind of scene. In the brief time this dinosaur was in Jurassic Park 3, I can't say I could see much wrong with it. The size is pretty spot on, as well as the crest and overall movement (from what we know). We do, however, have an issue again with skinniness. I don't know why Hollywood is body shaming thicc dinosaurs, but I guess that's the world we live in.


Corythosaurus sp. had, like many hadrosaurs, rather tall neural spines along the spine. Most paleontologists agree these likely accommodated some form of hump. This can be seen on the dinosaur in Jurassic Park 3, but the neck is too skinny again. This structure likely wouldn't have suddenly dropped off like a camel, but would have continued and fed into a more muscular neck.


Actual depiction of the animal:

Artist's reconstruction of a Corythosaurus.
Image credit: https://a-dinosaur-a-day.com/post/135103300475/corythosaurus-casuarius

Spinosaurus


Still from Jurassic Park 3 showing spinosaurus roaring
Image © Universal Pictures, image is fair use.

Hoo boy, did this one cause some controversy, both in and out of the Jurassic Park series. Spinosaurus serves as one of Jurassic Park 3's main antagonists, replacing the T.rex as the 'giant baddie'. People's main issue with the film was that they felt it completely disrespected T.rex and its influence on the series, especially when the Spinosaurus seemed to easily break its neck. If you're one of those people, or have ever wondered if this was actually possible, don't worry, I'll come to that.


First, let's have a look at what the animal looks like. This does also mean discussing Spinosaurus aegyptiacus and its controversies outside of the films. First described in 1915 by german paleontologist Ernst Stromer, the only known parts of Spinosaurus was a partial lower jaw bone and a few vertebrae showing massive neural spines (hence the name) which were being kept in Munich. The animal at the time was reconstructed as more or less a typical theropod with a sail on its back. Further study on these specimens became impossible when Munich was bombed during WW2, destroying the only specimens of Spinosaurus known at the time.


By the mid 90s, paleontologists had a much better idea as to what this dinosaur looked like, given how many other specimens of spinosaurids had been found (such as Baryonyx walkeri) and specimens of Spinosaurus marrocanus being described. Here's where the surprising part comes in.


Jurassic Park 3 came out in 2001 and, from what we knew about Spinosaurus at the time of the film's release date, the dinosaur shown in the film was actually pretty accurate (apart from the twisted, inwards-facing JP hands of course), so props to them for that!


But, 2001 was (as weird as this sounds for me) a long time ago. Since then we have found many more specimens of Spinosaurus, proving the dinosaur looked very different. Working from nose to tail, we're missing a small crest on the top of its head, a slightly longer and more pelican-like neck along with a sail which, depending on what expert you ask, may have been differently shaped. One big spanner in everyone's idea of this dinosaur was when the hind legs were discovered. They were, relatively speaking, tiiinyy! Some paleontologists questioned whether they were confused with a juvenile specimen, but the ending consensus was that they did indeed belong to an adult.


Now, the latest discovery to be made is with regards to the tail, which seems to have further strengthened a long-lived hypothesis. We now have a lot of evidence that Spinosaurus had a semi-aquatic (or at the very least, piscivourous) lifestyle. Proof of this is the crocodile-like sensor on its snout and high up nostrils, but now we see that the tail of this dinosaur was very paddle like, as a continuation of the sail, though the tail being fit for actual propulsion has been heavily doubted. All these new features culminate in a dinosaur that looked something like what you see below.


Actual depiction of the animal:

An artist's reconstruction of Spinosaurus
Original image credit: https://www.deviantart.com/paleonerd01/art/Spinosaurus-aegyptiacus-2020-841091211 the image has been edited and re-scaled, with the purpose of education.

Mosasaurus

Still from Jurassic World showing a Mososaurus eating a shark
Image © Universal Pictures, image is fair use.

Again, not a dinosaur, but let's take a look anyway. I'll be honest, I almost laughed when I saw the size of this thing. Other than the usual generic problems such as the shrink wrapping of the skin, the size of Mosasaurus was the most glaring issue.


Don't get me wrong, I wouldn't want to come across one while surfing, but they weren't that big. In fact, if it was as big as what we see in Jurassic World, this would make it the biggest predator to have ever existed in Earth's history (a title that belongs to, as far as we know, the infamous Megalodon). This is actually more of a size exaggeration than the Velociraptors! Don't believe me? Take a look:

A still from Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom show a Mosasaurus about to eat a surfer with a size comparison below.
Image credit: https://www.wattpad.com/804351800-random-book-16-the-jw-mosasaurus-really-grew

Actual depiction of the animal:

An artist's reconstruction of Mosasaurus, with a size comparison below
Image credit: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mosasaurus


Apatosaurus

A still form Jurassic World: Dominion show a dinosaur at a snowy construction site
Image © Universal Pictures, image is fair use.

Again, I'm afraid they got really close with this one, except for the size... sort of! I say that because they seemed to be the right size in Jurassic World, but got much larger compared to how big the dinosaurs actually were in Jurassic World Dominion, as seen in the image above.


Apatosaurus is arguably the most well known sauropod in pop culture, except most know this dinosaur as Brontosaurus. Quick tangent, but Brontosaurus was described back in 1879, but it was determined that this was actually a new species of Apatosaurus having been rushed as a result of the bone wars (something I'll get into in another post). Never fear though, because Brontosaurus was re-established as its own genus again in 2017.


Going back to Apatosaurus, I'm surprised this dinosaur hasn't been featured more, considering how well-known it is. The only inaccuracies I can see in the Jurassic World films, other than the aforementioned size in the latest film, are generic sauropod issues, mostly to do with the thickness of the neck (which I touched on before in previous posts). But even then, it's not too bad, so I'm going to get into a generous mood and give this one an 'ok'.


Actual depiction of the animal:


A size comparison of Apatosaurus
Image credit: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Apatosaurus_scale_mmartyniuk_wiki.png

Allosaurus


A still from Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom showing an Allosaurus running away from a volcanic eruption.
Image © Universal Pictures, image is fair use.

Speaking of famous dinosaurs that have taken their sweet time in making an appearance, we have Allosaurus in Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. Allosaurus has long been a victim of over-simplification, with most people hearing of this dinosaur and just thinking 'T.rex with three fingers'. Allosaurus fragilis was so much more than that! But I guess that's why a blog like this is here, right?


Allosaurus fragilis (which literally means 'different lizard') was first discovered in the Morrison Formation in North America, inhabiting the same environment and time period as Stegosaurus. So it's one of the few dinosaurs in the Jurassic Park series that is actually from the Jurassic! The most striking part of Allosaurus is the crest just above the brow, which was present on the dinosaur we see in the film, however, if I was being pernickety, the crests were pointed a bit far back. The rest of the skull shape isn't too shabby, though. Another feature that made this animal so unique was its big mouth. No, it wasn't throwing shade on other dinosaurs, it could literally open its jaws unusually wide.


This didn't necessarily need to be showed off in Jurassic World, given the context of the scene it appeared in, but it is worth mentioning and I'll explain why. Allosaurus was capable of opening its jaws up to 90°, which is insanely wide for a theropod!

A drawing showing an Allosaurus's maximum jaw gape
Image credit: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Allosaurus_Jaws_Steveoc86.jpg

On top of this, the skull of Allosaurus was capable of taking extremely high levels of stress, especially on the vertical plane. However, paleontologists found that this dinosaur actually had a really weak bite force for its size, with highly reduced jaw muscles. So why have a skull that can take incredible forces with jaws that could open wide but not have a strong bite? Well, to answer this question, let's look at the neck.

A fossil of an Allosaurus skeleton
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Allosaurus_atrox_Cleveland-Lloyd_Quarry.jpg

Often on dinosaurs, you'll see these 'spiky bits' sticking out of the bottom of the neck vertebrae. These are known as cervical ribs and are actually ossified tendons ('ossified' meaning they have calcified and turned into hard bone), meaning they were muscle attachments. It stands to logic then, that there would be a correlation between the relative length of these 'ribs' and the amount of musculature (therefore strength). These were quite long in Allosaurus, meaning it had quite a strong neck.


So, what does a wide mouth, strong skull, weak bite and strong neck equate to? Well, most paleontologists agree that Allosaurus used its mouth less as a clamp when attacking and more like a hatchet, opening its mouth extremely wide and relying on its thick, powerful neck to swing those jaws down on prey.


Now, if you take a look at the Allosaurus seen in Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, you'll start to see a problem that seems rather common with these dinosaurs. That Allosaurus must be so malnourished it is on the brink of death, with its highly skinny neck and shrink-wrapped skin so you can see the fenestrae in the skull. It seemed quite spritely in that scene though, so this is probably just an inaccuracy.


Actual depiction of the animal:

An artist's reconstruction of an Allosaurus
Image credit: Fred Weirum

Like I said in previous parts, I'm going to break this post up into a few different posts. Keep an eye out, because next time we'll be looking at:


Carnotaurus

Baryonyx

Dreadnoughtus

Giganotosaurus

Oviraptor



Until next time!



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