The Jurassic Park film franchise has routinely found itself on the receiving end of criticisms from the scientific community about its portrayals of dinosaurs on film. Though a realistic-as-can-be approach to the long extinct creatures was taken for the earlier films, new discoveries and advances in research have left the franchise in the dust as changes to what we know about dinosaurs have altered over the decades. New discoveries like the proliferation of feathers on dinosaurs and the feeding habits of others have made the movies become a little more inaccurate over time but a discovery published just today makes one of Jurassic Park III's dinosaurs almost entirely wrong.
In a new study published in the journal Nature (and elaborated on at National Geographic), paleontologist Dr. Nizar Ibrahim and his team have recorded their findings that indicate the Spinosaurus (seen on the big screen in the 2001 follow-up to Steven Spielberg's films) wasn't actually a land-based predator that sometimes entered the water for new prey, but was likely the opposite. Ibrahim said in a statement: "This discovery is the nail in the coffin for the idea that non-avian dinosaurs never invaded the aquatic realm. This dinosaur was actively pursuing prey in the water column, not just standing in shallow waters waiting for fish to swim by. It probably spent most of its life in the water."
The research done by Ibrahim's team involved collecting new fossils associated with the breed including "a remarkably complete, fin-like tail capable of extensive lateral movement and characterized by extremely long spines." With this they were able to recreate what the Spinosaurus' tail likely would have actually been like and how it would have used it for movement in the water, revealing its body and traversal through water would have been more akin to crocodiles and newts than what was previously believed to be true. In addition the team theorized that the beast had webbed feet as well, further altering its previously theorized physical appearance. You can watch a digital recreation of their findings in the player below.
A newfound fossil tail is changing what we know about Spinosaurus—and stretching our understanding of how and where dinosaurs lived. For more iconic storytelling like this, subscribe to National Geographic: https://t.co/wUHbBSAkyF pic.twitter.com/KsoHk0qBJe— National Geographic (@NatGeo) April 29, 2020
As fans of Jurassic Park may recall, the Spinosaurus was seen in the third movie attacking and defeating the fan-favorite Tyrannosaurus Rex while also pursuing the lead characters around the tropical island for most of the movie. In the end this all becomes quite inaccurate. It's worth noting that the creature is seen at one point swimming in the water with its fin emerging from the surface like a shark, but the extent of its time in the water is spent attacking a boat while towering over it and sticking its mouth in the water to maybe get a snack. As this new research suggests, the Spinosaurus would actually be in that water the whole time and likely would have made dinner of anyone that fell out of the boat and attempt to swim to shore. So in the end, the way the Spinosaurus is depicted in the film is now almost completely contrary to the scientific evidence of how it spent its life and hunted its prey.
It is worth noting however that despite the filmmakers of the Jurassic Park movies sticking to what the scientists and experts told them about dinosaurs at the time, in the actual context of the movies the teams creating the creatures were never going for scientific accuracy. Sam Neil's Dr. Alan Grant says as much in the third film, with the inaccurate Spinosaurus, telling a group fo students: "Dinosaurs lived sixty-five million years ago. What is left of them is fossilized in the rocks, and it is in the rock that real scientists make real discoveries. Now what John Hammond and InGen did at Jurassic Park is create genetically engineered theme park monsters, nothing more and nothing less."