Dinosaur Nomenclature

We have a special reminder concerning what is presented in the Jurassic Park Encyclopedia, regarding modified taxonomy and binomial nomenclature seen here. All of our work is pulled from the particular canon that is being dealt with, as well as from the most current and past paleontological evidence whenever available. We would also like to say that inferences are indeed made, but are drawn from evidence whenever possible if and when it is briefly seen or mentioned. Essentially, Jurassic Park is probably one of the best mainstream media outlets for getting people interested in dinosaurs in today’s society, but it is simultaneously riddled with scientific inaccuracies. The problem is that the dinosaurs in various Jurassic Park media are stylized, dramatized, or otherwise simply not correct, especially as a result of scientific discoveries that have been made since the creation of each form of media and the resulting views of dinosaurs that are displayed in paleoart and vertebrate paleontology as a whole.

So what, exactly, warrants changes to the dinosaur taxonomy of the Jurassic Park franchise? How can one reconcile with issues such as the rotated ulna and pronated hands of the theropods, or the lack of beautiful feathery fluff on those same dinosaurs? What about the necks of the Brachiosaurus, or the behavior of any and all dinosaurs in Jurassic Park? Most of the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park, and the resulting discrepancies with modern paleontology and viewpoints established within the past two decades (1990 to 2010) can clearly be blamed on “public consciousness/view of dinosaurs.” There is even a scene in the original novel, in the chapter ‘Version 4.4.,’ in which Henry Wu remarks that the animals need to be changed in order to conform to the public perception of dinosaurs:

“I really think you should consider my recommendations for phase two. We should go to Version 4.4
“You want to replace all the current stock of animals?” Hammond said.
“Yes, I do.”
“Why? What’s wrong with them?”
“Nothing,” Wu said, “except that they’re real dinosaurs.”
“That’s what I asked for, Henry,” Hammond said, smiling. “And that’s what you gave me.”
“I know,” Wu said. “But you see…” He paused. How could he explain this to Hammond? Hammond hardly ever visited the island. And it was a peculiar situation that Wu was trying to convey. “Right now, as we stand here, almost no one in the world has ever seen an actual dinosaur. Nobody knows what they’re really like.”  (Crichton p. 122)

The idea is that InGen would alter their dinosaurs in order to suit the public opinion of the dinosaurs if they had to, at least in the universe of the novels. What does this mean in the film universe and in other media? Does this suggest that a similar conclusion had been reached? This is certainly a possibility, as version numbers can be seen. This is discussed in-depth here regarding the canon of the films. Version numbers do explain that the dinosaurs were essentially treated as software in both the novel and the film, and were essentially undergoing constant refinement, though whether this was because of damaged or otherwise incomplete DNA sequencing or simply to match what the public thought of dinosaurs at the time is unclear. This can explain some of the anatomical differences, such as a lack of feathers, and as such, the animals seen in the film would of course be different from their prehistoric counterparts.

The very reason that the cloned dinosaurs are so inaccurate in the first place is attributed to the techniques utilized to extract their DNA from amber, as shown in the film, and from partial DNA extracted from fossilized bones that was suggested in the novels. As mentioned in both the novels and films, the DNA used is millions of years old, very fragile, and more often than not incomplete; Time is no friend to organic matter, and places a gauntlet of odds in the way of its preservation. There are so many factors that work against fossilization that some life forms are missing from the fossil record entirely. Knowing this, InGen had to fill in the gaps in the DNA sequence with something else in order to successfully create the animals, whether it be from an avian or reptilian source. Inthe films, it is specifically mentioned that frog DNA was used, though dinosaurs are more closely related to birds than they are to amphibians and even to most other reptiles. Furthermore, the scientists then used DNA from other animals to “fill in the gaps” that were still missing, thus resulting in “deformities” to the animals as they were unknowingly altering their DNA. The fact of the matter is that the dinosaurs created by InGen for Jurassic Park would never be carbon copies of their Mesozoic forefathers; the traits that they had had millions of years ago, such as feathers and perhaps even some of their behavior, were lost in the cloning process. Over the years, the dinosaurs would have to change further, through natural processes, to live in a world that was never meant to support them. In a sense, some of their ancestral characteristics may no longer be needed for Jurassic Park’s dinosaurs to not only survive, but flourish, in the world of the present day. In short, the dinosaurs have evolved and adapted to their new, isolated world.

The use of DNA from other animals in repairing DNA sequences may be the explanation of such anomalies as the Dilophosaurus, which bears a frill and can spit venom where no such evidence exists in the real animal; or the Pteranodons which have teeth while, ironically, their name means “wing without tooth;” and various other biological issues which are present in all forms of Jurassic Park media. As InGen’s scientists were unable to acquire pure dinosaur DNA and the codes were severely fractured, they likely used more than just amphibian DNA in order to complete their “product.” With the west African frog DNA, this explains the dinosaurs’ ability to change their gender in a single-sex environment and thus breed.

The simple fact is that scientists in the 1980s would have little knowledge or the technology required to clone a “perfect” dinosaur, especially when public perception and incomplete scientific information is all that they had to work with at the time. The versions that we see and read about in the various canons of Jurassic Park are the best that InGen could produce at the time, not only reinforcing the public conception of dinosaurs at the time, but also with what little material they had to work with in the end.

Therefore, in order to differentiate what is seen in fiction from what is seen in science, we have created modified species names to identify the dinosaurs and other prehistoric animals of Jurassic Park from their real-world counterparts, and have also granted in-universe explanations where applicable in a particular medium. This also helps to differentiate two different animals where there may be two or more species of a given genus of animal, such as the Pteranodons and Velociraptors of the film canon. Taxonomically, we are constantly working to refine this system, always looking for when and where imperfections can be spotted.

Key:
(x -Genus Name-) – Hybrid
(?) – Debatable or formerly a subject of debate
(*) – Modified Scientific Name only for the purposes of this project. Consult DinoData.Net for the scientifically correct name.

Exclusive to S/F-Canon:
– Inhabited Isla Nublar

- Inhabited Isla Sorna