Collagen from a Tyrannosaurus rex bone proves Jurassic Park will never exist

June 1, 2017, University of Manchester
Credit: University of Manchester

Palaeontologists at the University of Manchester have definitively proven there will never be a Jurassic Park after re-analysing collagen from a Tyrannosaurus rex bone discovered more than a decade ago.

It is probably the most common question Palaeontologists are asked by the public, "Could Jurassic Park become a reality?" The claims of (peptides) surviving from a 68 million year old Tyrannosaurus rex fossil discovered ten years ago sparked the imagination of many scientists worldwide that, potentially, there may be hope one day.

Prehistoric proteins might well have supplied the first possible glimpse of the steps toward rebuilding . This discovery, however, was not met with universal acceptance and caused much debate among the scientific community. Subsequent analyses by the same team furthered this work with another dinosaur, this time the hadrosaur (duck-billed dinosaur), Brachylophosaurus. The main argument against this prior work was levelled at the possibility of bacterial contamination, but a more fundamental concern was the possibility of modern contamination from bones analysed in the laboratory.

Dr. Mike Buckley, from The University of Manchester's School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, said: "The discovery of proteins in sent a shockwave around the world, both among scientists and the public. It appeared that fiction was now being converted to fact through the application of new techniques."

So a team based at the University of Manchester and at the National Museums Scotland, led by Dr Buckley, set out to explore the possibility of whether the claimed dinosaur peptides could have come from modern animals, given that ostriches and alligators that were known to be used by the labs in the original studies.

The Manchester team analysed samples of bone from three different ostriches, finding strong matches to all of the originally reported fossil peptides from both T. rex and Brachylophosaurus. These results highlight the need for robust authentication criteria when attempting to identify biomolecular sequence information from truly ancient fossilised material.

Dr. Buckley added: "Our work set out to identify the collagen fingerprints for both Ostrich and Alligator and was not intending to debunk the previous studies. However, we soon realised that our results were pulling the rug from beneath the paradigm that collagen might survive the ravages of deep time".

Collagen is the key protein within bone that provides the flexibility in the skeleton and is intimately locked within the minerals that comprise bone. This ubiquitous material dominates both the archaeological and palaeontological record and can provide important information on both living and extinct organisms. However, the survival of collagen sequences beyond 3.5 million years old has not been achieved and validated by any other team.

Co-author and Professor of Natural History at The University of Manchester, Prof. Phil Manning, added: "The fossil record is offering new information on a daily basis through the application of new technology, but we must never forget that when results show us something that we really want to see, that we make sure of our interpretation. The alleged discovery of protein sequences in dinosaur bones has led many unsuccessful attempts to repeat these remarkable claims. It seems we were trying to reproduce something that was beyond the current detection limits of our science".

The controls that are used to constrain the evolutionary relationships between extinct and existing orgranisms have to be completely isolated from the subject of study (i.e. the dinosaur ), so that the highly sensitive techniques do not pick-up residues of misleading contaminants. This leading to a false ceiling for other scientists to achieve, which in reality is highly challenging.

Finally, Dr. Buckley added, "We are seeing something similar in our study, as to what happened with the ancient DNA world over 20 years ago when the scientific world had to recalibrate their aspirations when it came to the survival of this delicate molecule of life through deep time. It seems that the idiom that exceptional claims require exceptional evidence remains."

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4.2 / 5 (5) Jun 01, 2017
There will be other ways to reconstruct these animals. We will know enough about life to be able to analyse the structure of the bones themselves, compare them with existing animals, and infer what genes were necessary to make them.

We will know what organs they encased, how these organs functioned, and what genes will be needed to reform them.

Life is complex but it is not infinitely so. Structures and forms and functions repeat throughout evolutionary history and we will one day understand their genetics to the point that reconstituting a t rex just from the fossil record should be possible.
5 / 5 (2) Jun 01, 2017
Or, we could just make a really convincing, safe and fun Virtual Jurassic Park!
not rated yet Jun 01, 2017
So easy to say 'never' now.. as one might have thought the same thing about our current level of technology 200 years ago.
Da Schneib
3 / 5 (2) Jun 03, 2017
Hollywood BS aside, Velociraptor was about the size of a turkey, but with a tail twice the length of its body; this long tail was characteristic of the Dromeosaurs, along with the sickle-shaped claw on the middle toe. Deinonychus was about the size of a big dog, half the height of a human but of equal weight. The scary one is Utahraptor, which is taller than a tall man and three or four times human weight. They're still working out what the big claw was for. All of these were feathered dinosaurs.

Velociraptor would be a pest; Deinonychus a serious threat like a big cat; and Utahraptor would be an "Oh sxxt RUN!!!"
3 / 5 (2) Jun 03, 2017
Pest? Have you ever been driven off the grass by a few persistent geese? Imagine if they hunted in packs, could run faster than you, and jump on your back with that claw in your kidney.
not rated yet Jun 04, 2017
The title is all wrong. Writers often think they are being "scientific" by being pessimists. We should always entertain possibilities, particularly if they have not been proven right or wrong, yet could be proven right or wrong. In statistics, this is the difference between significance and power. We just don't have the power to really know what is possible in this realm, but not being able to recover protein from a dinosaur is not a reason to think we could not create a dinosaur. From what we already know, dinosaurs more than likely shared 99+% of their functional DNA with living species, so their genetic code could be reversed engineered based upon their morphology and the DNA present in their closest relations today once we know more about the genotype->phenotype correlation. Just knowing a T.Rex "could exist" means the problem has a solution already...its just a matter of finding it using powerful enough computer simulation and more information DNA->phenotype relations.
Jun 04, 2017
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Jun 04, 2017
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1 / 5 (3) Jun 04, 2017
So, . . . how DID we get Trump?

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