CAN DINOSAURS BE BROUGHT BACK?
(P1) When it comes to making movies, sometimes the natural limits of science must be stretched to CAPTURE THE IMAGINATION of the audience. This is something PALEONTOLOGIST Jack Horner understands very well.
(P2) Horner is the CURATOR of paleontology at Montana’s Museum of the Rockies and co-author of the book, How to Build a Dinosaur. However, he is most famous for his role as technical CONSULTANT on all four Jurassic Park films, including the new film Jurassic World.
(P3) The original film, Jurassic Park, was based on a Michael Crichton novel. It tells the story of a theme park where dinosaurs ROAM free. In that movie, scientists used DNA collected by ancient mosquitoes that had been trapped in AMBER shortly after they drank dinosaur blood. The scientists used this dinosaur DNA to create baby dinosaurs.
(P4) The scientists in Jurassic Park created various types of dinosaurs, but in reality there is one major problem with the plot. DNA, it turns out, could not possibly survive the 65 million years since the death of the dinosaurs.
(P5) So the new movie adds a TWIST. It creates an entirely new species of dinosaur—the Indominus rex. It is made from the recovered genes of four actual dinosaurs: the Giganotosaurus, Rugops, Majungasaurus and Carnotaurus.
(P6) “The cool thing about making a HYBRID,” Horner said in a recent interview with BBC, “is that we can take a whole BUNCH of genes from other animals and mix them together to make a new animal, which is actually more PLAUSIBLE than bringing them back.”
(P7) This idea of creating a hybrid species is something Horner has explored before. In 2011, he gave a speech in which he discussed producing a dinosaur by working with the genes of a bird. Modern birds are the closest living relative to dinosaurs.
(P8) His theory is if you could shut off the genes that turned a claw to a wing, or restore the ones that coded for a dinosaur’s tail instead of a bird’s tail, you might work your way back to animals that haven’t been seen for tens of millions of years.
(P9) The concept of MANIPULATING the genes of animals to create animals with new TRAITS is called transgenic science. And this type of science has already produced some interesting results—goats that produce SPIDER SILK in their milk, cows that produce proteins for medicines that can treat diseases, and a pig that produces less-polluting MANURE thanks to a bit of mouse DNA.
(P10) However, none of these examples are even REMOTELY close to the dinosaurs Horner ENVISIONS in Jurassic World. And for a good reason – genetics are a very complicated science. Producing a new species is not as simple as just SWAPPING a few genes around.
(P11) Genes do not work alone, they work as a team in perfect HARMONY. Because of this, changing just one gene in an organism would not create a new trait.
(P12) While there are examples of new species being created by combining two other species, such as the mule, the new species does not have the ability to create OFFSPRING of their own.
(P13) In the end, Jurassic World is all about fun. And while Horner’s science in the new movie may seem more believable than the old Jurassic Park amber DNA SCENARIO, genetically creating and changing dinosaurs is still impossible.
If you found the passage difficult to read or had problems understanding specific words or idiomatic expressions, please discuss them with your tutor. The following discussion questions should be answered in your own words and with your own arguments.
- Briefly summarize the content of the article in your own words.
- If scientists could use genetics to bring back species that have become EXTINCT recently, should they do that?
- Do you enjoy science fiction thrillers like the Jurassic Park movies?
- If you were going to become a scientist, what would you study?
- Why do dinosaurs have such a powerful IMPACT on people’s imaginations?
EXPRESSIONS TO PRACTICE:
What do the following expressions mean? Practice using each expression in a sentence; extra points if you can use it in conversation.
- Capture the imagination