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Depictions of Dinosaurs in Crichton’s “Jurassic Park”

Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton is one of the iconic novels of the science fiction genre and is considered Crichton’s magnum opus. The book is generous in providing detailed depictions of various dinosaur species and explaining how the park came to life in the modern world. Some of the descriptions are backed up by scientific facts based on fossil records; however, the book also utilized a significant amount of creative space while giving behavioral characteristics of dinosaurs.

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The infamous tyrannosaur is described in the book as an unstoppable, blood-hunting killing machine. One of the scenes notable for describing the tyrannosaur’s behavior is when the characters watch the dinosaur hunt its prey. Crichton (1990) describes the dinosaur’s hunting process: the dinosaur manages to hide from the goat it wants to attack before getting closer despite its enormous size. Then, it reveals its body all at once and quickly runs over the goat, immediately striking it down with its jaws. Even though tyrannosaurs are considered to be the kings of the dinosaur world, the tyrannosaur in this scene “became suddenly hesitant” (Crichton 1990, p. 145). One of the characters, Regis, explains that the dinosaur contemplates where to have its meal: in front of the people or drag the goat away. One of the reasons for this hesitation is the tyrannosaur’s fear of attracting other tyrannosaurs to the goat.

However, what is important in the scene is how the author describes the dinosaur’s motions while checking for its surroundings. As pointed out by Ellie, her behavior is bird-like: “she looked back and forth, scanning in small jerking shifts” (Crichton 1990, p. 146). This comment is based on fossil evidence because scientists established close relations between dinosaurs to modern-day birds after analyzing the structure of their skeletons. Yet, another character, Grant, compares the tyrannosaurs to lions and tigers and evaluates the dinosaur’s behavior through the dietary perspective, where carnivores have to guard their prey from other animals. This is a product of evidence-based research, which proves the scientific input included in the novel.

Jurassic Park also has a considerable number of descriptions of velociraptors, making them one of the most important dinosaurs in the fictional world of Crichton. For example, in the scene where the characters applied the computer-assisted sonic tomography on the velociraptor’s fossils, the reader is provided with detailed information about the velociraptor’s skeleton. However, the book does not only give the basic list of characteristics that the character Grant sees on the computer screen; it also offers evaluations on how this dinosaur utilizes its physical abilities. For example, velociraptors have a toe claw, which serves as a weapon to rip open their prey and fight animals. It is a piece of fossil-based evidence, which proposes how velociraptors behaved while they were hunting. Moreover, Grant speculates about the cause of death of dinosaurs: there is a chance that they were not killed off by the meteor but died from poisoning alkaloids in plants (Crichton 1990). This was one of the most popular theories among paleontologists during the period the book was written; therefore, it is evident that Crichton had researched herbivore dinosaurs and their diet.

Furthermore, Grants talks about the bone structure of a velociraptor’s neck and offers some insight into the peculiar properties of the dinosaur’s preservation. He brings up an important point about how the carcass dried in the sun, which provoked “a postmortem contraction of posterior neck ligaments” found in birds and reptiles (Crichton 1990, p. 54). Despite that it does not comment on the behavioral features of velociraptors, it compares them to the modern-day animals that resemble dinosaurs in their biological compound.

Later in the book, Muldoon thinks about the different species of dinosaurs and describes their dangerous features. While considering how to deal with velociraptors, he mentions that they are as intelligent as chimpanzees and have been found taking pleasure from killing. Fossil records do not support Muldoon’s evaluations of velociraptors because such complex cognitive patterns as enjoyment from killing cannot be extracted from the fossils. At the same time, the chimpanzee comparison is not valid, which constitutes Crichton’s creative input to make the novel more exciting and engaging.

Moreover, Muldoon’s assessments of velociraptors come from his observations of their behavior, which further proves the disconnection between legitimate scientific findings and depictions of the dinosaurs in the book. He describes the event when one velociraptor had escaped from its living zone by opening the gate with its agile hands and killing two workers (Crichton 1990). Despite that scientists have explored the bone structures of velociraptors, they could not claim that these dinosaurs possessed a high level of intelligence, which gave them the ability to manipulate the tools as primates.

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In conclusion, many descriptions of dinosaurs in the book are the products of Crichton’s creative work, making the novel more appealing to the public audience. However, critics also praised the author for an accurate representation of the dinosaurs’ behavior in some parts of the book, which Crichton has extracted from scientific research. It provides a unique insight into how science fiction can be distinguished from legitimate academic research.


Crichton M. 1990. Jurassic Park.

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