Work Continuing on the Encyclopedia

Been a long time since we updated the blog about our work here at Jurassic Park Legacy. Rest assured we have all been diligently working on the encyclopedia project and filling it to the brim with all available information. The main thing we’ve been doing is pouring over the material and transcribing what we read and see. Our wealth of knowledge is growing with each entry we put into the encyclopedia and it’s truly remarkable. We’re 99% of the way through the novel-canon, 99% of the way through the film-canon (this is counting Rides, which is Alternate Universe and JP:TG which is nestled into the film-canon at this time), and 75% of the way through the comics (IDW is finished, Topps is being worked on and making good progress. Junior novels are in a preliminary stage still and the Trespasser canon articles still need some work as well. We’re also prepping for Phase 2 at this time of the encyclopedia with Behind the Scenes information as well about the production of the films. Some of those articles have been added or are currently being worked on at this time. The encyclopedia is a good way to learn about all things Jurassic Park and to help the fandom have the ultimate resource for all things Jurassic Park. Be sure to join today to help us out!

The Lost World Hypothesis: Part 3

This is the final installment of a multi-part entry into the process and pains of the creation of JPL’s map of Isla Sorna.  Eventually these entries will be merged into one article and made part of the Encyclopedia.

 

Jurassic Park III is, to put it simply, a cluster of plot holes and contradictions.  The most significant of these is the fact that Ben and Eric para sail into the island.  Then Ben’s body is found (still attached to the para sailing harness and hanging from the tree he landed in) in the center of the island.  If anyone can explain how Ben was able to reach the center of the island from an initial gliding height of only a few hundred feet, well we would love to hear it.  Then there’s the fact that (based on not only the actual location used for filming but also a quick shot in the film itself) the landing strip is actually less than a mile from the coast.  You know; the coast that Alan Grant was so intent on everyone getting to quickly?  Yeah.  They walked in the opposite direction of that coast.

And of course in The Lost World: Jurassic Park we are told time and time again that the coast is relatively safe and devoid of carnivores, yet in Jurassic Park III Eric insists that “the closer you get to water the bigger things get.”  Granted Brachiosaurus is both an herbivore and one of the largest things on the island, but by Eric’s tone he seems to be referring to dangerous carnivores.

If I seem bitter, well it’s because I am.

But nevertheless, some sort of map had to be drawn for the film, so we did our best to make a map that made sense.  Unfortunately, this meant either taking out specific “in film evidence” (which we did not want to do) or breaking any sense of reality that the film tries to hold on to (which was an even worse proposition).  Thus, on our map Ben and Eric para sail for approximately five miles before finally landing (perhaps they caught an updraft?) and the landing strip is not situated next to the coast (though we did attempt to put it near a water source, partly because a mile-long runway wouldn’t fit anywhere else).  For its credit there are certain parts of the film, such as the location where the plane holding Alan and the Kirbys enters, which flow together well on the map.  However these are few and far between.

Some discrepancy exists in reference to the large rocks seen in the opening shot.  Once believed to be either of the two large outcroppings seen on the map it was eventually realized that the rocks in the film are much smaller, on the order of a few pixels wide on the scale we were working with.  Because of this it was decided that the props crew likely wouldn’t have bothered to place these rocks on the map, since they are not large enough to represent a topographical feature.

 

The film opens with the Dino-Soar boat on the western-side of the island, traveling around the coast clockwise.  Eventually they release Ben and Eric on their para sail and travel into a fog.  During this time the boat is attacked by an unseen animal, killing both captains and leaving Ben and Eric to crash into a small reef or outcropping.  Hoping not to crash (which would send their para sail straight into the water) Ben unhooks Eric and himself from the boat and steers the para sail toward the nearest dry land; Isla Sorna.  They slip between some mountains and begin heading inland, catching an updraft or two before finally crashing in a group of trees just a few hundred feet from a raptor nesting area (Velociraptor “antirrhopus sornaensis”).  Eric is able to land relatively safely and turn off the camera just before the raptors attack, driving Eric away and killing Ben.  Eric eventually makes home base a few miles away in an abandoned water truck.

The rocks visible in the opening shot of Jurassic Park III.

The Dino-Soar boat as it travels in a clockwise direction around the island. To the left is the same mountain that Ben and Eric later glide behind.

Eight weeks later Paul and Amanda Kirby have come together to search for their son, lying to and kidnapping Dr. Alan Grant and his assistant Billy Brennan.  The plane they have chartered approaches Isla Sorna from the north.  The path the plane takes would actually have taken them straight past the western coast; however the plane makes a sharp turn left (toward the east) and enters the island from the same location as the first shot of the film.  The plane travels further inland until eventually turning left around a mountain and heading north above an open plain.  Nash spots a landing strip ahead and to the left of the plane.  After Grant is knocked out by Cooper the plane circles the island before coming to land at Site B’s landing strip.

The chartered plane as it turns left (to the east) toward the island's western coast. Note the valley directly to the plane's left; this is where it enters (and the first shot of the island in the film).

The plane as it passes by the large rocks on its way into the island. Note that while large in relation to a plane they are not on the order of "miles wide."

The plane as it turns left (toward the north) around a mountain side.

After the Spinosaurus attack the plane is left crashed a couple hundred feet or more from the landing strip.  Grant decides that the group must head for the coast to find rescue, leading the survivors southeast, away from the large Spinosaurus.  After walking for a few miles they encounter the downed para sail and simultaneously discover Ben’s corpse and the nearby raptor nest.  They leave the area quickly, continuing east, while Billy takes the time to steal eggs from the nest.

The survivors stumble upon the para sail and thus the site of Ben's death. The raptor nest is a short walking distance from here.

Eventually they discover the Embryonics Administration building nestled in a valley below them and head into the building, entering through the main entrance from the northwest.  After being attacked by the lone sornaensis male they exit the building from the same location turning south/southeastward, quickly stumbling upon a herd of Parasaurolophus and Corythosaurus.

View from a higher elevation of the Embryonics Administration and Labs. The labs are confined to this valley, and based on this the survivors would approach the entrance from the left.

The survivors run from the Embryonics Administration building, exiting back out the front and turning left after exiting (the opposite direction from how they entered).

In the confusion Alan is separated from the rest of the group and is found by Eric, who leads him back to the water truck where the two spend the night.  Billy, Paul, and Amanda spend the night high in the trees.  Come morning both groups set out.  Alan and Eric eventually find the ravine, at the bottom of which is a river and a salvageable boat.  The other group continues in the same general direction.  Eventually both groups converge on either side of a perimeter fence, likely having passed on either side when the groups split up.  After escaping the Spinosaurus again they head into the Aviary.

Alan and Eric turning away from the canyon, below which is the river, the barge, and (out of frame to the far left) the Aviary.

They escape the Aviary to the south, coming out next to the barge seen earlier by Alan and Eric, and travel south along the slow-moving river.  Sometime during the next night they are attacked by the Spinosaurus a second time about a mile from the mouth of the river and spend the next few hours waiting for morning.  They travel south toward the coast when they are ambushed by the raptors just out of sight of the beach (perhaps having been following the survivors on the water).  Scared off by the approaching helicopters the raptors flee, leaving the survivors to quickly reach the beach and safety.  They then traveled south in helicopters to rendezvous with a group of ships.

 

How Billy was found (and is somehow not dead) is a matter of extreme plot armor; likely the armed forces in question spotted him floating in the water half-dead or washed up on shore near the mouth of the river.  Billy probably floated “safely” on the river after passing under the Aviary walls, actually behind the barge that Alan and the others were traveling on.  After the spino attack he would have drifted straight past the other survivors as they waited for morning, thus reaching the coast before them.

So now the fandom has a map to follow.  Again, most of these locations are approximations and may not be 100% accurate, but then neither are the films in what they are trying to tell us.  Though we feel this is, in essence, “as close as we’re going to get,” I would personally like to take this opportunity to remind people that science is constantly evolving and being altered.  If you think you have something to provide to the map (such as new information or a theory about some matter) do not hesitate to contact me (T-Rex_Master) on the forums through private message about it.  I’ll be happy to look into it.

Hopefully Jurassic Park 4, whenever it happens, blends seamlessly into the rest of the map.  We can only hope.

Jurassic Park Legacy's (as of 9/3/11) map of Isla Sorna, aka "Site B."

The Lost World Hypothesis: Part 2

This is Part 2 of a multi-part entry into the process and pains of the creation of JPL’s map of Isla Sorna.  Eventually these entries will be merged into one article and made part of the Encyclopedia.

 

Determining the specific locations for various events was a complicated task.  There was no existing map to draw reference from, and so any clue as to the location of, say, the high hide was hidden within the film.  We were required to look at dialogue exchange and the physical features of the island as a primary source.  In situations where that did not provide enough of a framework, such as the exact location of the trailers, logic and deductive reasoning were required in order to eliminate other potential locations.

The most sound method was to refer to specific dialogue or plot elements for clues, then fall back on features of the landscape, and then finally determine any other elements to come to a conclusion.  Going over each and every point of reference in this article would be tedious, to say the least.  However, you can get an idea for the process if we look at the location of the Operations Center (sometimes referred to as the worker’s village) and why we put it where we did.

Let’s look at the evidence.  The location of the village was stated to be in the center of the island.  We also have Roland’s comment to Ian and Ajay during the night (after Roland returns from finding Dater’s body, and just before the two rexes attack) that “the Operation’s Building is right down in there, about a mile and a half from the base of these cliffs.”  This gives us three frames of reference; the village is in the middle of the island, is at a low elevation change (they have to go down cliffs to reach it), and is approximately a mile and a half away from the cliff side or ridge (this also gives us a clue as to where the temporary camp is located, but we will come to that later).  A fourth piece of evidence comes in the form of the Velociraptors, which seem to be stationed in droves around the village.  Combine that with Ludlow’s comment about the group having to worry about Velociraptors and we are led to the conclusion that the village lies near the raptor territory as seen on Hammond’s computer near the beginning of the film.

Now that all of this evidence is compiled we can turn to the map, looking specifically at the area in the center of the island near the Velociraptors.  From there we look for a lowland area with a positive change in elevation and see if we can put the village about 1.5 miles from that cliff side.  Working with the map we are able to put in place an “approximate location.”  It is important to note that sometimes locations would be changed as other factors became apparent, or new information was brought to light.  The location of the game trail, for example, changed considerably during our analysis from the middle of the island down to the south to then up to the north.

Based upon film evidence and working with the map we believe that the events unfolded as such.

 

The Mar Del Plata, the boat hired by Hammond’s team, approaches the island from the north.  It heads south along the eastern coast of Sorna before landing in a lagoon.  After unloading the vehicles Hammond’s team heads north, following a dirt road toward the location where (presumably) Sarah should be located.  They park the trailers near a set of cliffs in the northern-most area of the island and power on their GPS units, heading back south to rendezvous with Sarah.

After finding her and heading back north towards camp they discover that Kelly has stowed aboard the trailers (it is by now getting close to “dinner time”).  Within minutes they watch Ludlow’s team (“the hunters”) as they approach from the north and head along the eastern coast of Sorna, soon landing a few miles south of the trailers on a game trail.  Hammond’s team jumps in their Jeeps to follow the helicopters and survey the hunters.

Ludlow's Team approaching from the north.

The hunters travel westward along the game trail, into the setting sun.  Roland and Ajay, during a break, discover a set of Tyrannosaurus footprints disappearing into the jungle toward the southwest.  The rest of the hunter team continues their work while Roland and Ajay track the footprints back to the Rex Nest, about five miles to the southwest.  They return with the infant by nightfall.  The hunters, heeding Roland’s earlier advice, make camp off the game trail (unbeknownst to them just a mile or two from the trailers).  Roland and Ajay set up their hunting blind nearby.

Roland and the rest of the hunters drive into the setting sun during the roundup scene.

A view of the coast from Hammond's team's scouting location, showing the ocean behind the game trail.

With light filtering in through the trees Roland and Ajay have reach the rex nest before nightfall.

By the time Nick and Sarah begin their sabotage of the hunter camp “mommy and daddy” have already discovered that their infant is missing and are heading north while Ian, Kelly, and Eddie head back to the trailers.  Eddie begins setting up the high hide.

Eventually Roland and the other hunters realize they have company on the island and head north along the dirt road, hoping to find the other humans.  Sarah and Nick work on setting the infant rex’s leg as the adults get closer, passing under the high hide and likely passing the hunters as well (who hide, of course).  Eventually they reach the trailers and, after getting their infant back, push the trailers over the cliff.  Eddie leaves Kelly in the high hide and takes the Jeep to help; not long afterwords the hunters reach Kelly and bring her along with them (likely thinking her safer with a group of guys holding big guns).  Soon the adults return to kill Eddie, then leave again.  The hunters finally reach the trailer site, just in time to help the remains of Hammond’s team to safety.  All the survivors together then regroup back at the destroyed hunter camp.

The survivors return to the hunter camp to regroup, salvage equipment, discuss their options, and just generally argue.

After arguing and much deliberation it is agreed that the survivors will travel to the Operations Center in the workers village, Ludlow citing this trip to take “a day’s walk, maybe more.”  They head south before dawn breaks, eventually passing by the coast in the wee hours of the morning.  They are soon set upon by a shower which passes quickly.  Sometime in the second half of the trek they are forced to walk north around a set of intertwining mountain ranges, doubling their travel time (where otherwise they would have headed due west and made the trip in about 10 hours), and pass near the location of Cathy’s beach (the beach where Cathy, the young girl, was attacked by Compsognathus at the beginning of the film).  This is indicated by identical mountain ranges in the backgrounds of both shots.  Here they hear the distant roar of a Tyrannosaurus, likely one of the adults following the scent of blood on Sarah’s jacket.

Cathy Bowman as she encounters the first Compsognathus. Note the mountain range in the top left corner of the image.

The same mountain range as above, behind the survivors, as they continue their trek to the Operations Center.

In the late afternoon Roland stops the group just a few miles short of the village, checking on Sarah’s health.  Dieter takes the time to relieve himself but is frightened by a compy and takes a tumble, injuring himself.  He is soon killed a distance away from the rest of the survivors, whom start start moving again.  About 15 minutes later they realize Dieter is missing.  Roland tells the rest of the group to continue on, as they are “ten minutes” away from the ridge where they will take a few hours rest.  He and a small group of hunters head back to find Dieter.

Roland and the others eventually rendezvous with the rest of the survivors at the ridge some time in the night.  Roland implies he had taken a detour close to the village before returning back (“I’ve seen it”) and comments that in one hour they will make the final stretch to the village, “about a mile and a half from the base of [the] cliffs.”  At this point the adult rexes have caught up to the survivors and attack them, actually pushing everyone toward the village.  The survivors of the rex attack wade through raptor territory in the long grass.  Few survive.  Ian, Nick, Sarah, and Kelly make it through the grass and fall down a short incline to come level with the village.  Nick runs ahead to the Operations Center to call for help, eventually being joined by the others after the raptors attack in the village.  They all get flown to safety.  Back at the ridge Roland has captured the male rex and eventually also gets flown to safety with the rest of InGen’s workers.

 

Admittedly the only snag in this line of reasoning is the location of the rex nest, which is not in the same location as Hammond’s thermal scans show back in his bedroom.  However, this is one of the situations where film evidence begins to contradict itself.  Factually, there is no way that Roland and Ajay could have made it to the rex nest from the game trail in the amount of time they had were that nest in the location that Hammond’s computer suggests; it was too late in the day for a trek of that length.  Moving the game trail inland would not work to correct this imbalance as film evidence shows the game trail running along the coast.  Thus, in the interest of creating a map that doesn’t involve random teleportation of the protagonists we decided that Hammond’s map is either not showing nesting sites, is blatantly wrong, or there is more than one rex family on Sorna.  The latter is actually a fair assumption, since a viable population would have to include more than a single mated pair and their one offspring.

Hammond's computer indicates rex territory somewhere in the middle of the island. Either this is simply a "current position" marker or another rex family's territory, since Roland and Ajay could never have made it to this location before nightfall.

Contradictions make the process difficult, though not impossible; not until Jurassic Park III anyway.

 

Continued in Part 3…

The Lost World Hypothesis: Part 1

This is Part 1 of a multi-part entry into the process and pains of the creation of JPL’s map of Isla Sorna.  Eventually these entries will be merged into one article and made part of the Encyclopedia.

 

Jurassic Park Legacy’s map of Isla Sorna (aka Site B) has been a many-years long endeavor.  Numerous maps of Isla Sorna exist, both in-film props and real world publicity items.  One would therefore think that it would be a simple thing to create a map corresponding to the films’ events.

However, none of the maps work together, and topography varies from one map to another.  It seems the production team for the films did not have any sort of concrete map or topography from which they were working from.

This leaves JPL’s Map Team with a dilemma.  Which of these many maps should be used as the de facto topography for our map?  Should we rule out every other map or attempt to merge all the maps together?  Should one map be considered more likely to be “accurate” than all the others?

After a lot of deliberation it was agreed that the map seen in The Lost World: Jurassic Park during Kelly’s wandering of the trailers (below) was the most accurate for our purposes.  The topography is clear, the map is given a central focus in the film (even if only for a few seconds), and within the film universe itself it appears to be a detailed map of the variety you would find pinned in a government building.

The Five Deaths

Las Cinco Muertas, The Lost World: Jurassic Park

So our topography was established; now we had to determine the size of the island.  This was done fairly easily.  Costa Rica appears on this map as well, and sizing it appropriately allowed us to determine the size of Sorna.  The result;  approximately 21 x 20 miles.

The island was now complete.  We created a large topographical map of the entire Las Cinco Muertes island chain and created a map scale from there (at our scale; 116 pixels per mile).  Work on actual locations could now finally begin.

 

Continued in Part 2…

Why science outweighs want…

People have a hard time with the idea of scientific fact and what it means to change an idea over time. Take the public conception of dinosaurs over the last hundred years. Dinosauria was a new thing in the early 1800s, but bones had been found previously of “dragons” and “other beasts” for a long, long time. People get upset with the aspect that Dragons and Monsters aren’t real, but established folklore that is nothing more than passed between cultures over time. Science? Disproved it and pointed out what it really was, yet some people still sit there believing what they will believe.

Science should always outweigh want though especially when it comes to belief that is unsupported by fact. With science you start with a hypothesis to test and if it’s proven wrong after multiple experiments? You’re wrong and you move on gaining knowledge from the experience and sharing with others until you form another hypothesis and guess what? You repeat the process. If you get the answer you were hoping for? You turn around and still publish your results and see if others discover the same thing you have in your experiment. So what does this have to do with fossils and dinosaurs? Paleontologists have found fossil evidence of feathers, protofeathers, and the like in Theropod Dinosaurs. A lot of people can’t stand the idea of Dromaesaurids (Velociraptor and kin) being feathered. Either they feel it makes the animal look ridiculous or they just love the idea of the scaly reptiles running around clawing at one another. Now the thing that bothers me is that some blame Jurassic Park for this. While it may have been contributory to the “Scaly Dinosaur” group it is clearly not to blame. Jurassic Park only represented one interpretation at that time throw in the fact there’s numerous other Dinosaur fiction out there where feathered dinosaurs are clearly not featured. Why? Public perception. Feathered dinosaurs in 1992? That was a new thing, a new concept that was radical, but not unheard of at all in the slightest. The issue was as always public perception. The public wants to picture scaly horizontally bipedal animals fighting and doing monstrous things and not picture dinosaurs as they were. Why? They find it enthralling and exciting no matter how truly wrong it is. As time went on and more evidence was found the idea of feathered Theropods was more widely accepted. It cemented the relationship between dinosaurs and birds to a heavy degree. The idea of birds being members of Dinosauria itself is fairly new also, but it has older roots back in the early days of paleontology. You can thank the Dinosaur Renaissance for these old ideas being brought back to life in a manner of speaking. An old idea becoming new is not unheard of, but the essential problem is people wanted to believe different (that dinosaurs were sluggish elephantine animals), ignored the evidence (Archeaopteryx!) and it interfered (the public uses terms like dinosaur now to indicate lesser intelligence or something that’s lived past its prime).

I make “want” sound like a bad thing, and the fact is it can be a good thing also. All ideas start by want, but in the end? Science prevails. The key is being objective and that’s what a lot of people fail to realize with want. I see this a lot nowadays with people complaining about the lack of feathered theropods in Jurassic Park. Truth be told Jurassic Park, and InGen’s scientists at the time, worked off public perception of the animals to genetically recreate their theme park “dinosaurs”. Some say “Well this makes them not dinosaurs.” No. It does as they originate from dinosaur blood. They’re dinosaurs in their own right, just the interpretation is different and while the evidence of quill knobs is possible in Velociraptor (the real life one – not the Deinonychus counterpart you see in JP) it’s also equally possible in other animals related to Velociraptor. So the point is InGen, in the films and novels, can alter DNA and produce the animals how they see fit. This would mean genetic technology is a lot more advanced in say the Jurassic Park universes than our own. Of course I admit my ignorance on the subject of genetic technology in our own and that we may be advance, but there’s looser morals associated with the use of it in the Jurassic Park film and novel storylines.

Now on the flip side there are people who are also upset with the aspect of feathered dinosaurs being included possibly in the future of the films. They think this contradicts pre-established canon and to this I point out – again – this is theoretically possible as InGen treated their dinosaurs like software. Each animal to be manipulated in such a way for the “theme park setting” more or less.

So should we have feathered theropods for JPIV? Yes. But explain it to the public because people need to understand WHY and that was the biggest problem with the Jurassic Park /// “Velociraptors”.

A Fandom In Peril?

Being around the community for the last ten years I’ve noticed a fair majority of the older fans disappear from the community after getting older. It seems to be something people they just get tired of being here, and who can blame them in all honesty with the way things genuinely go for the film series. It’s been at least nearly ten-eleven years without a film and one is going to possibly occur in two to three years given Spielberg’s recent statements are Comic-con.

I can honestly say I’ve left two to three times I can offhand remember and still find myself back here in the community. I’ve often wondered if this just has something to do with “well, I got to get on with life” kind of thing that causes these disappearances for some or if it’s just a genuine “all abandon hope” sorts of disappearances. I’ve been a member of the community close to eleven years at this point. I found InGenNET (an old JP site) in about December of 1999 and didn’t began to post actively on it as of January of 2000. It wasn’t long after that I began interacting in a way I never thought I’d imagine as a Forum Moderator then eventually, as time went on, a Co-Webmaster rank on the site of trying to run it all in Neo_Maze’s absence. I loved inGenNET the truth is, but not everybody’s passion seemed to be in it. Due to a culminations of philosophical points, apathy on the webmaster’s behalf (I’ve presumed), and a poor web host inGenNET died officially in 2001. Many attempts have been made to revive it and all were unsuccessful because other greater – and better – sites filled the void.

I had a couple offers after my departure to come and work with JPAftermath.Net when it was ran by Steve before eventually settling down with JPDb for a long term 3 year tenure. Once again differences of opinion and direction left me just desiring to make my own website finally and thus JPLegacy was born. As you can tell though a lot of the people I used to speak to are relatively not here anymore because they’ve moved on to greater/bigger things. The community has this desire and sad tendency to bring notification – continually – of circumstances they could work on changing, but won’t either due to narrowed-viewpoints or just apathy itself. I say this to highlight the people that have made a positive change for the community. I can say at least a majority of the staff on the site, even the ones that have left for bigger, better things, made a positive contribution to other fans to inspire them. This ranges from the work with the Encyclopedia, which spawned not only this site but the Film Canon Mod Project, the Novel Canon mod project, Live the Legend RPG, on down to our growing costuming department. The thing with JPL is we hope to inspire others to do great things with their fandom here and maybe professionally some day in life when moving onto greater things. Unfortunately though we see a lot of people leaving Jurassic Park behind with that. The films are great, the novel is better, and the other stuff – let’s hope it gets better there.

So what can we do to keep us around after a fourth film has came and went? Undoubtedly people will leave again. It’s a point of fact in this community is the turn-over rate is sadly high, but there’s some possibility with that maybe JP fans will stay this time. Most websites themselves are not always an accurate representative of true counts of fandom though, but things are done on websites to bring attention to the fandom. The fact is if everybody cares about Jurassic Park and in order to keep the fandom from going extinct every one has to work to make the fandom known and contribute in some fashion.

“What Everyone Should Know About Paleontology” by Thomas R. Holtz Jr.

While browsing the Dinosaur Mailing List and the various paleoblogs out there recently I stumbled upon this gem of an article by Dr. Thomas Holtz Jr. in regards to what everyone should know about paleontology. I’ve been an aspiring paleontologist for years and it’s nice to see something that could be used a point-by-point done by one of the professionals out there. Personally, he’s one of my favorite paleontologists out there around and actually worked on the Jurassic Park Institute Dinosaur Field Guide a while back. The question was posed by Roberto Takata from the Dinosaur Mailing List. Project Dryptosaurus even posted a copy of this on their site.

“What Should Everyone Know About Paleontology?” 
by Thomas R. Holtz, Jr.

I think that is a good question. What really are the most important elements of paleontology that the general public should understand? I took a shot at coming up with a list of key concepts, based on experiences with teaching paleontology and historical geology and with less-formally structured outreach to the public. I have offered this list (cross posted at the Sauropod Vertebrae Picture of the Week, Dave Hone’s Archosaur Musings, and Superoceras blogs) as a way for it to reach a wider audience. That this is Darwin Week makes it even more appropriate, as we should use this occasion to encourage a better understanding of the changes of Earth and Life through Time for the public at large.
Much as I might like to think otherwise, the specific details of the hindlimb function of Tyrannosaurus rex or the pneumatic features of brachiosaurid vertebrae really are not the most important elements of the field. Understanding and appreciating the nitty gritty details of the phylogeny and anatomy of any particular branch of the Tree of Life are not really necessary for everyone to know, any more than we would regard detailed knowledge of bacterial biochemistry or the partitioning of minerals in a magma chamber to be significant general knowledge. (Indeed, these latter two items are actually far more critical for human society than any specific aspect of paleontology, and so from a certain point of view really more important for people to know than the History of Life.)
That said, all human societies and many individuals have wondered about where we have come from and how the world came to be the way it is. This is, in my opinion, the greatest contribution of paleontology: it gives us the Story of Earth and Life, and especially our own story.
I have divided this list into two sections. The first is a list of general topics of paleontology, touching on the main elements of geology that someone would need to know for fossils to make any sense. The second is the more specific list of key points in the history of life.
(NOTE: as the idea of this list is that it should be aimed at the general public, I have tried to avoid technical terminology where possible.)

GENERAL:

  • That rocks are produced by various factors (erosion à sedimentation; metamorphism; volcanic activity; etc.)
  • That rocks did not form at a single moment in time, but instead have been and continue to be generated throughout the history of the planet.
  • That fossils are remains of organisms or traces of their behavior recorded in those rocks.
  • That rocks (and the organisms that made the fossils) can be thousands, millions, or even billions of years old.
  • That the species discovered as fossils, and the communities of organisms at each place and time, are different from the same in the modern world and from each other.
  • That despite these differences that there is continuity between life in the past and life in the present: this continuity is a record of the evolution of life.
  • That we can use fossils, in conjunction with anatomical, molecular, and developmental data of living forms, to reconstruct the evolutionary pattern of life through time.
  • That fossils are incomplete remains of once-living things, and that in order to reconstruct how the organisms that produced them actually lived, we can:
    • Document their anatomy (both gross external and with the use of CT scanning internal), and compare them to the anatomy of living creatures in order to estimate their function;
    • Examine their chemical composition, which can reveal aspects of their biochemistry;
    • Examine their microstructure to estimate patterns of growth;
    • Model their biomechanical functions using computers and other engineering techniques;
    • Investigate their footprints, burrows, and other traces to reveal the motion and other actions of the species while they were alive;
    • And collect information of the various species that lived together in order to reconstruct past communities.
  • However, with all that, fossils are necessarily incomplete, and there will always be information about past life which we might very much want to know, but which has been forever lost. Accepting this is very important when working with paleontology.
  • That environments of the past were different from the present.
  • That there have been episodes of time when major fractions of the living world were extinguished in a very short period of time: such data could not be known without the fossil record.
  • That entire branches of the tree of life have perished (sometimes in these mass extinction events, sometimes more gradually).
  • That certain modes of life (reef formers, fast-swimming marine predators, large-bodied terrestrial browsers, etc.) have been occupied by very different groups of organisms at different periods of Earth History.
  • That every living species, and every living individual, has a common ancestor with all other species and individuals at some point in the History of Life.

SPECIFIC:
Honestly, despite the fact the specific issues about specific parts of the Tree of Life are the ones that paleontologists, the news media, the average citizen, etc., are more concerned with, they really are much less significant for the general public to know than the points above. Sadly, documentary companies and the like keep on forgetting that, and keep on forgetting that a lot of the public does not know the above points.
Really, in the big picture, the distinction between dinosaurs, pterosaurs, and crurotarsans are trivialities compared to a basic understanding that the fossil record is our document of Life’s history and Earth’s changes.
Summarizing the key points of the history of life over nearly 4 billion years of evolutionary history is a big task. After all, there is a tendency to focus on the spectacular and sensationalized rather than the ordinary and humdrum. As Stephen Jay Gould and others often remarked, from a purely objective external standpoint we have always lived in the Age of Bacteria, and the changing panoply of animals and plants during the last half-billion years have only been superficial changes.
But the question wasn’t “what should a dispassionate outsider regard as the modal aspect of the History of Life?”; it was “What should everyone know about paleontology?” Since we are terrestrial mammals of the latest Cenozoic, we have a natural interest in events on the land and during the most recent parts of Earth History. That is a fair bias: it does focus on who WE are and where WE come from.

That said, here is a list of key concepts in the history of life. Other researchers might pick other moments, and not include some that I have here. Still, I believe most such lists would have many of the same key points within them.

  • Life first developed in the seas, and for nearly all of its history was confined there.
  • For most of Life’s history, organisms were single-celled only. (And today, most of the diversity remains single-celled).
  • The evolution of photosynthesis was a critical event in the history of Earth and Life; living things were able to affect the planet and its chemistry on a global scale.
  • Multicellular life evolved independently several times.
  • Early animals were all marine forms.
  • The major groups of animals diverged from each other before they had the ability to make complex hard parts.
  • About 540 million years ago, the ability to make hard parts became possible across a wide swath of the animal tree of life, and a much better fossil record happened.
  • Plants colonized land in a series of stages and adaptations. This transformed the surface of the land, and allowed for animals of various groups to follow afterwards.
  • For the first 100 million years or so of skeletonized animals, our own group (the vertebrates) were relatively rare and primarily suspension feeders. The evolution of jaws allowed our group to greatly diversify, and from that point onward vertebrates of some form or other have remained apex predators in most marine environments.
  • Complex forests of plants (mostly related to small swampland plants of today’s world) covered wide regions of the lowlands of the Carboniferous.
  • Burial of this vegetation before it could decay led to the formation of much of the coal that powered the Industrial Revolution and continues to power the modern world.
  • While most of the coal swamp plants required a moist ground surface on which to propagate, one branch evolved a method of reproduction using a seed. This adaptation allowed them to colonize the interiors, and seed plants have long since become the dominant form of land plant.
  • In the coal swamps, one group of arthropods (the insects) evolved the ability to fly. From this point onward insects were to be among the most common and diverse land animals.
  • Early terrestrial vertebrates were often competent at moving around on land as adults, but typically had to go back to the water in order to reproduce. In the coal swamps one branch of these animals evolved a specialized egg that allowed them to reproduce on land, and thus avoid this “tadpole” stage.
  • These new terrestrial vertebrates—the amniotes—diversified into many forms. Some included the ancestors of modern mammals; others the ancestors of today’s reptiles (including birds).
  • A tremendous extinction event, the largest in the age of animals, devastated the world about 252 million years ago. Caused by the effects and side-effects of tremendous volcanoes, it radically altered the composition of both marine and terrestrial communities.
  • In the time after this Permo-Triassic extinction, reptiles (and especially a branch that includes the ancestors of crocodilians and dinosaurs) diversified and became ecologically dominant in most medium- to large-sized niches.
  • During the Triassic many of the distinctive lineages of the modern terrestrial world (including turtles, mammals, crocodile-like forms, lizard-like forms, etc.) appeared. Other groups that would be very important in the Mesozoic but would later disappear (such as pterosaurs and (in the seas) ichthyosaurs and plesiosaurs) evolved at this time.
  • Dinosaurs were initially a minor component of these Triassic communities. Only the tall, long-necked sauropodomorphs were ecologically diverse during this time among the various dinosaur branches. However, a mass extinction event at the end of the Triassic (essentially the Permo-Triassic extinction in miniature) allowed for the dinosaurs to diversify as their competitors had vanished.
  • During the Jurassic, dinosaurs diversified. Some grew to tremendous size; some evolved spectacular armor; some become the largest carnivorous land animals the world had seen by this point. Among smaller carnivorous dinosaurs, an insulating covering of feathers had evolved to cover the body (possibly from a more ancient form shared by all dinosaurs). Among the feathered dinosaurs were the ancestors of the birds.
  • Other terrestrial groups such as pterosaurs, crocodile-ancestors, mammals, and insects continued to diversify into new habits.
  • During the Jurassic and (especially) the Cretaceous, a major transformation of marine life occurred. Green-algae phytoplankton were displaced by red-algae phytoplankton (which continue to dominate modern marine ecosystems). A wide variety of new predators—advanced sharks and rays, teleost fish, predatory snails, crustaceans with powerful claws, specialized echinoids, etc.—appeared, and the sessile surface-dwelling suspension feeders that dominated the shallow marine communities since the Ordovician became far rarer. Instead, more mobile, swimming, or burrowing forms became more common.
  • During the Cretaceous one group of land-plants evolved flowers and fruit and thus tied their reproduction very closely with animals. Although not immediately ecologically dominant, this type of plants would eventually come to be the major land plant group.
  • The impact of a giant asteroid—coupled with other major on-going environmental changes—brought an end to the Mesozoic. Most large-bodied groups on land and sea, and many smaller bodied forms, disappeared. The only surviving dinosaurs were toothless birds.
  • The beginning of the Cenozoic saw the establishment of mammals as the dominant group of large-bodied terrestrial vertebrates. Early on mammals colonized both the sea and the air as well.
  • During its beginning the Cenozoic world was warm and wet, much like the Cretaceous. However, a number of changes of the position of the continents and the rise of mountain ranges caused the climates to cool and dry.
  • As the world cooled and dried, great grasslands developed (first in South America, and later nearly all other continents).
  • Various groups of animals adapted to the new grassland conditions. Herbivorous mammals became swift runners with deep-crowned teeth, often living in herds for protection. Mammalian predators became swifter as well, some becoming pack hunters.
  • Other new plant communities evolved, and new animal communities which inhabited them. The rise of modern meadows (dominated by daisy-related plants and grasses) saw the diversification of mouse-and-rat type rodents, many frogs and toads, advanced snakes, songbirds, etc.
  • A group of arboreal mammals with very big brains, complex social communities, and gripping hands—the primates—produced many forms. In Africa one branch of these evolved to live at mixed forest-grassland margins, and from this branch evolved some who became fully upright and moved out into the grasslands.
  • This group of primates retained and advanced the ability to use stone tools that its forest-dwelling ancestors already had. Many branches evolved, and some developed even larger brains and more complex tools. It is from among these that the ancestors of modern humans and other close relatives evolved, and eventually spread out from Africa to other regions of the planet.
  • About 2.6 million years ago a number of factors led to ice age conditions, where glaciers advanced and retreated. Various groups of animals evolved adaptations for these new cold climates.
  • The early humans managed to colonize much of the planet; shortly after their arrival into new worlds, nearly all the large-bodied native species disappeared.
  • At some point before the common ancestor of all modern humans spread across the planet, the ability to have very complex symbolic language evolved. This led to many, many technological and cultural diversifications which changed much faster than the biology of the humans themselves.
  • In western Asia and northern Africa (and eventually in other regions), modern humans developed techniques to grow food under controlled circumstances, leading to true agriculture. (Other cultures are known to have independently evolved proto-agricultural techniques).
  • This Neolithic revolution allowed for the development of more settled communities, specialization of individual skills within a community (including soldiers, metallurgists, potters, priests, rulers, and with the rise of writing, scribes).
  • From this point we begin to get a written record, and so the historians can take up the story…

This list is obviously not comprehensive, and there are many elements that I had to ignore to keep it relatively short. Still, I hope this overview helps put where we as a species fit into the larger perspective of Life’s long voyage, a voyage that could only have been traced by the study of fossils.

By far truly awesome and a big thank you to Dr. Holtz for making this awesome post to help people out there.

Version 6 on its way!

One of the hardest parts of doing a new version to Jurassic Park Legacy is trying to find a way to top your own work and improve upon the faults you found in the previous designs. I started new work on version 6 to find myself constantly going through a load of ideas constantly before settling on what I am now finally working on. The original idea for version 6 was actually more of a JP3-esque look seeing how we have had a bit of JP and TLW look to the site. The time honored traditions of most of the JP sites out there has been to “honor thy film” as I say. I tried to break that manner of thinking a bit with my first two versions of the site. I tried to do Version 1 or 2 based off of an idea I had just randomly. There was a Version 0 at one point, but Version 0 was just a generic gradient red-black background and nothing too special there. Check these out below, these are all of our past versions.

So you see where the site has been and now as to where it’s going. Recently we’ve seen the launch of a new style logo for Jurassic Park, new comics, a new game coming, and lastly a new set of toys. The trick in this? Finding something that kind of marries the site to the products available to give Hasbro, Telltale, and IDW a bit of free press/promotional blitz and to bridge the fandom to meeting it.

Version 6 has been my back-breaking endeavor to working that out. What is Version 6 to include? Random Quote, Poll, and a Search for sites in the JP community. Well that’s stuff we already do, we’re actually going to go back to version 4 a bit with the random changing logo again and designing new header images for it. On top of this we’ve got a plan to go a bit further with Version 6 by actually creating horizontal hover link menus for easier navigation. The hardest part of the site is navigating so I want to clean that up for the next version. Next thing that’s being done is a new “intro page”. I would be lying if I said Version 6 isn’t our most image intensive version yet. Truth is also in that we’re also looking to keep load times down for performance reasons.

What about the Encyclopedia? It’s taking some time but we are planning a revamp of how the information is presented by scrapping together our own CMS. I personally hate Wikipedia software and the free “how-anyone-and-their-father’s brother’s cousin’s sisters roommate ” can edit the thing. This to me makes a Wiki-anything heavily unreliable because of this. To further add insult to Wiki? College courses really will fail you if you cite them. Something I agree with because of how it can be edited and changed by almost everybody. So JPL is making it’s own system based off a couple old designs and such a few other people have tried in the community’s past. It will take some time, but we’re hoping to even give the Encyclopedia it’s own sub-hosted domain; however, still keeping the Encyclopedia integrated on the site. The domain would be jpecyclopedia.jplegacy.org or something like down the line here.

So keep in mind with anything it takes a load of time to accomplish and to have up and running. I have teased version six already on our message board. Kind of an exclusive, here’s the link to see the “progress” we want public so far.  Check it out here. As always keep with us and we’ll keep trying to keep things exciting.

A Tour of the Encyclopedia Process…

A lot of people don’t realize the due process of the Encyclopedia and how it actually works for the community. If you were to joined the community in the year 2000 and asked for a list of dinosaurs that were located on Isla Nublar you would have been simply given the novel list and said simply “Well, that’s all we have.” or some people would chime in saying the toys represented the accurate count of the animals on Isla Nublar, to this it was met with a face palm representing frustration as I was a mere aspiring Fan Fiction writer along with my friends.

The concept of canon, although clearly indicated by Rick Carter (Production Designer) and Michael Crichton (Author of the original works) were briefly elaborated with admittedly vague, but confirming quotes. The problem was, these quotes – like a lot of the information represented in the Jurassic Franchise were buried and forgotten. You can see more information about these quotes here. Out of a flowering ambition and a lack of a social life in High School I took it upon myself to organize a group of individuals to lead a research effort into determining what was canon and what was not in the Jurassic Franchise. The result, well, after ten years is what you see as the Jurassic Park Legacy website.

A lot of questions are asked about the due process involved in the Encyclopedia, a lot of accusations have been made in regards to the validity of our information. There is a lot of stuff we keep out of the public eye because, some of it, is boring and a lot of it gets into philosophical fights on occasion surrounding what is/was canon and what is just us getting into semantics regarding what we see. In other words, boring crap. The fact is we see ourselves like digital paleontologists in a way mulling over a trilogy of film, two novels, countless comics, numerous video games, and a couple lines of toys scraping every detail we can from them in order to establish the boundaries of continuity and lastly canon to make it easy for Fan Fiction writers and fans a nice something to read through. Fan Encyclopedias are quite popular, in fact there are very many people – with nothing to do at times, that love going over and reading them to “attain” knowledge. Jurassic Park is different in a way, we’ve had to stay up on current paleontology research in order to point out the interpretations in the dinosaurs concerning how “true” to science they are. Very recently, we indicated that even if InGen had cloned a feathered Velociraptor they would still – likely – modify it to match public perception of dinosaurs at the time to make it seem a real. A concept indicated in the novels, and can be inferred over to the films due to the appearance of the JP3 Velociraptors being different from the previous two film’s Velociraptor. We also indicated that the JP Velociraptor is not actually a Velociraptor, but a Deinonychus based on size and the ontological aspects of the animal’s skull that we see in the film. Ergo on the taxonomic aspect, it is a Deinonychus. Among this, we’ve made much progress, for one we now know there are varying species lists between the continuities that add up as, again, different media.

How about the maps? We have different methods with those, some of us look at the filming locations and how the topography seemingly blends in together on what we see with the film and the island layout provided by the Production Design department. The issue is, always with JP, continuity. Because of changes in filming or changes in perspective from concept to filming a lot of the maps involve our best educated guesses. The problem with this is that we are having to make inferences or educated guesses on scant information. A lot of our work recently has been involving map making and ergo, therefore, a lot of educated guesses and inferences from what we see on film, from the Making of Books, and other sources. The problem is, occasionally, we are wrong and we work hard to fix that in light of new evidence. The other issue is a lot of people go “Well I can do better.” to this I respond, atypically and maverick like “You are certainly welcome to try, but it’s going to be wrong.” Why do I tell them it’s going to be wrong? A lot of naysayers, hecklers I call them as well, come in without learning all the facts themselves and say “I feel it should be this because it just looks right. So you should change it.” this is honestly the worse thing anyone can say/do. We don’t simply put something because we *feel* it should be there. We put something to its location on the map because of educated guesses. If you want something changed, present evidence – strong evidence, to indicate it needs to be changed. Some people have unfortunately gone as far as presenting pictures with little to know evidence regarding a change. They accompanied dubious evidence which only confuses the argument.

The process behind the Encyclopedia is slow, if you have seen our current Sorna map some have realized the scale is off, this is true. We are currently re-working it and a lot of work involved in it is admittedly overwhelming, but this is our biggest project in a while. The aim of JPLegacy and it’s team is very simple. Provide accurate information to the fans of Jurassic Park. Give Jurassic Park the treatment and highlight that it should have always received from the beginning and not the negligence and “step child treatment” it has received by so much from Hollywood. In addition to this we provide a friendly community, as much as we can at least, for the fandom to come and discuss all things JP.

Jurassic Innards Goes LIVE!

Good day! If you’re reading this, then you’ve stumbled upon Jurassic Innards. This blog is the official website of Jurassic Park Legacy. It is officially live. Go ahead and post comments on the already posted news, or suggest future topics on our forum!

Welcome to the official Jurassic Park Legacy Blog.

Now, you’re probably asking yourself “A Jurassic Park Legacy… blog?” Yes. The purpose of this blog however is nothing related to dinosaurs, Jurassic Park, or anything really. It is simply to show our users how we do stuff. How is news posted? What do those symbols in the chat mean? How did you figure that out? Basically, this blog is a look under the hood of Jurassic Park Legacy. It looks to see the guts, muscles, and skeleton that make up the website.

Our goal with this blog is Multifaceted:

1: Provide users with an understanding and respect of how we get things done around the website.
2: Familiarize members with functions, terms, and things that they might not understand outright, but would be beneficial to them, either on or off the site.
3: Act as a bit of a reference guide for new staff members so that they can familiarize themselves with the utilities we use.
4: Show how research is done; which will allow the members to appreciate research, and be able to help out with the process.

Basically, this blog will help all members hopefully. Users get to see the fancy workings under the hood and help us out better if we need it, or if they find useful information. New staff will have access to a tutorial which can be applied not only to Jurassic Park Legacy, but to other websites which employ the same utilities. Veteran staff get to showcase the work that they have put into the website.

The blog will span across the three ‘veins’ of Jurassic Park Legacy. Chat, Forum, and Homepage. It will go in-depth on certain projects and things (eg: Live the Legend), and will also, thanks to this vein-spanning, provide users with insight to something they might have not seen before that could be of interest to them.

This blog will be updated frequently over the summer, so be sure to check back often!