The Jurassic Park Myth

You’ll be hard pressed to find someone who has not at least heard or even seen the original Steven Spielberg movie Jurassic Park or one of its sequels: cloned dinos run rampage, chew on extras and then let the main characters get away. Lather, rinse, repeat for the sequels. Cheese galore.

But the movie introduced the idea that dino DNA was hiding inside mosquitoes locked in amber. And the amber the movie chose was (are you holding your breath?) Dominican. One scene even introduces the viewer to a Dominican amber mine by the name of  “Mano de Dios” (no such mine) alongside a river bed (no amber mines along river beds) and miners with lovely Mexican accents (this is the DR after all) in a very gold-mine looking kind of Amber mine.

Anyone familiar with the reality of Dominican amber mines chuckles at this scene. And no, none of the scenes of the movie, not even the amber mine, were filmed in the Dominican Republic, no matter how much some tourist guides will want to make you believe it (it is however known that location scouts visited the island during preproduction).

But the real bummer lies within the science.

There are several plot holes large enough to swallow a herd of Parasaurolophus without a single burp, and our beloved amber leads the pack.It is generally accepted that Barney’s ancestors died out at the end of cretaceous period, 65 million years ago–“An adventure 65 million years in the making” the movie advertised.

A few filibusters may have lived longer than that, but you know how it is with extinction: like tax day, it’s inevitable.

Both the movie as well as the Michael Crichton novel it is based upon now propose that mosquitoes suckled at the dinos and got trapped in resin only to end up as jewelry in Dominican Amber. All the scientists had to do was to drill into the fossilized resin and extract the dino DNA and — presto! — Dinos-R-(amongst)Us.Found fodder for critics. They rip the movie and its science apart like a pack of Velociraptors would an unlucky Triceratops, what with missing DNA bits, unhappy chromosomes and impossible sequencings and the likes. But one of the most blundering mistakes is the amber itself.

Dominican amber is only 20 to 40 million years old and I don’t care if Baygon was already around or not: mosquitoes don’t live more than a few days at best. Hence it is unlikely that some skeeter managed to hang around 20 million years after feasting on Gallimimus before it got trapped in that sticky goo. A plot hole 20 million years wide.

Dino Blood in Dominican AmberBut hold on! I hear the ardent fans cry from their movie seat: what if the amber is 65 million years old after all, and dinos and mosquitoes did share the cretaceous period? What if all the eggheads are wrong? After all, geologists love to throw around millions, just like Ted Turner.I will indulge the notion but only for the length of the next paragraph (there are suggestions that Dominican amber may have originated during the cretaceous period.If the amber mosquitoes did live alongside the dinos, then where are the dinos? Except for some crocodile and dugong bones (family of the manatees), there have never been any major dinosaur finds in the DR. No matter how old the amber and the skeeters are, there is no chance they could contain dino blood. As a matter of fact, it is assumed that much of the Caribbean was still submerged 65 million years ago, and/or according to tectonic plate movement still sitting somewhere near what is now the Galapagos.

​Of course there have been mosquito-in-amber finds in other places that fit the era as well as location; say New Jersey. But these finds are rare, which is why Crichton used Dominican amber instead of any other: it’s the mot beautiful around and it has got the loveliest inclusions. See more at amberinclusions.com

And I think because of that we’ll forgive his gaps, won’t we? But to this critic the funniest discrepancy was the Mexican accents of the “Dominican” miners. And the mine itself. Why, you ask?

In short, most people imagine amber mining to be alike shaft mining. The truth is, it is closer to bell pitting than shaft mining. Read on.