The Jurassic Park franchise has always prompted two questions in the minds of its audience:
- Could I survive?
- Could dinosaurs ever take Earth back from us?
Since the original film celebrated its 25th anniversary Monday, and Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is right around the corner, I figured it’d be fun to look at both of those questions in an ever so slightly analytical way. But really, you’re going to die.
Surviving a Jurassic World
All Your Nests Are Belong To Us?
Let’s take a look at that second question first, as it’s easier to answer. Unless they call in their extant descendants (birds), a dinosaur takeover is not going to happen. There are a lot of reasons for this, beyond the one you’re probably thinking of. Dinosaurs would lack natural immunities to the various allergens, viruses, and bacteria that populate our planet, though it’s unclear how quickly those would be able to cross species barriers (dogs and people don’t typically suffer from the same infections, after all).
Depending on what species you’re talking about, these revived dinosaurs would also be dealing with different atmospheres than those they evolved in. This is actually something Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park novel dealt with, as a sick Stegosaurus was wheezing due to the relative lack of oxygen in our air, compared to the Jurassic period in which it lived.
But since death by hay fever is a touch boring, let’s pretend that these InGen-revived dinosaurs are modified so that they are more compatible with today’s environment. Could these hypothetical animals wreak havoc on us in the long term?
No. Let’s not mince words here. Mankind has a long, sad history of wiping out the various megafauna on our planet. Lions once roamed Europe, mastodons marched across the Americas, and today elephants are poached with AK-47s and defended by drones. If elephants, actively protected by human beings, are struggling, then the dinosaurs that could dwarf them in size would be easy game.
There’s a tendency to think of dinosaurs as indestructible monsters (an idea that was unfortunately bolstered by Jurassic World‘s Indominus rex, which shrugged off a blast from a rocket launcher), but these were living, breathing animals that would be just as vulnerable to the power of human weaponry as any other. Not to mention having to outrun fleeter of foot prey or predators.
The smaller dinosaurs would have some hope of survival. The turkey-sized Velociraptor could certainly insert itself into an ecosystem as an invasive species. Burmese pythons are one of the more famous invasive species, drastically altering the Everglades ecosystem, and you can bet that the efforts seen to halt that would be increased tenfold if dinosaurs were involved.
But I’ll be good, right?
As bad as dinosaurs would have it in our world, we would almost certainly have it worse in theirs. Once again, ignoring the fact that a human might get bitten by a prehistoric mosquito and die of dysentery a few days later, the world of the Mesozoic Era was a rough one, no matter which spacetime locality you chose to visit.
Let’s go back to that turkey-sized floof otherwise known as Velociraptor mongoliensis. As you’ve likely heard, the Velociraptors seen in Jurassic Park are actually based on their cousin, the wolf-sized Deinonychus, which was in turn overshadowed by the even larger Utahraptor ostrommaysorum.
In some ways, seeing the true size of Velociraptor makes it easy to write them off as not so dangerous. After all, the weight estimates of an adult Velociraptor range from 30-45 lbs., not much bigger than a coyote. And in truth, a Velociraptor might view a human as a questionable prey item.
There weren’t any large mammals, and certainly no erect standing primates, in their environment. Our unique appearance might dissuade any attempted attack from such a small predator. However, if one did choose to attack you, you’d be in trouble. The problems arise from the theropod body plan.
The vast majority of animals you’ll encounter, whether they’re stray cats or dogs, a raccoon, or a deer, are quadrupeds. For them to attack you with something other than their head, it requires them to lift either their front or hind legs off the ground, forcing them to balance on their other legs, which they aren’t well adapted to do for an extended period of time.
Velocirpator, being a biped, had no such issue. It could attack with both its teeth and forelimbs without sacrificing movement. Its small size (it would have needed to stretch itself upward to reach your hip) also means that it would have been easily able to stay out of range of your punches (go ahead and try punching the space in front of your knees with any real force), so to fight this floofraptor off, you’d have needed to risk your own balance while kicking at it.
Speaking of kicks, how about those 6-inch toe claws on Velociraptor‘s hind feet? Because Velociraptor‘s feathered body runs parallel to the ground, it would be nearly impossible to see the toe claws until the animal was already in mid-air.
There’s an old boxing adage that it’s the punch you don’t see coming that knocks you out. If you see the punch coming, you have time to react, even if it’s only to brace for the impact. Elite boxers like Terence Crawford, Saul “Canelo” Alvarez and Floyd Mayweather use their eyes to roll with the punches and reduce the force of impact. Not much help here, though, as we’re talking about a pair of 6-inch hooks aiming to pierce into your body and bleed you out.
So you avoided the claws
As gruesome as the picture above is, I don’t want to paint Velociraptor as a biological Terminator. It was a carnivore, and like most carnivores, it would have been extremely cautious. Yell, “COME AT ME BRAH!” at the top of your lungs, and it will probably think twice about charging (note: do not employ this strategy against larger animals). Predators will often act timid unless hunting. They can’t afford to be injured in a fight; a broken leg, foot, arm, etc. can spell the difference between a successful hunt and starvation.
So we need to address the elephant in the room, the hippo in the river, and the goat in the road. Carnivores like Tyrannosaurus rex might be the celebrities of the dinosaur world in movies and video games, but its the herbivores that would likely do you in.
Herbivores don’t necessarily have the brain power or caution of carnivores. Their prey doesn’t run or fight back, after all. So when cornered or surprised by another creature, an herbivore has to make a quick decision: run or fight this potential predator. Does the word “stampede” mean anything to you?
Even small ornithopods like Thescelosaurus neglectus pose many of the same problems that Velociraptor would. And anyone who’s seen a parrot bite knows the damage a beak like the one possessed by the goat-sized Protoceratops andrewsi could deliver.
The truth is, without any weapons, a normal human being is going to find themselves in a heap of trouble in a dinosaur’s home turf. And if you think that only applies to the extinct dinosaurs, go introduce yourself to a goose sometime. I’m sure it’ll go well for you.