How to Build a Dinosaur: Extinction Doesn't Have to Be Forever
Jack Horner, James Gorman
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A world-renowned paleontologist takes readers all over the globe to reveal a new science that trumps science fiction: how humans can re-create a dinosaur.
In movies, in novels, in comic strips, and on television, we’ve all seen dinosaurs—or at least somebody’s educated guess of what they would look like. But what if it were possible to build, or grow, a real dinosaur, without finding ancient DNA? Jack Horner, the scientist who advised Steven Spielberg on Jurassic Park, and a pioneer in bringing paleontology into the twenty-first century, teams up with the editor of The New York Times,’s Science Times section to reveal exactly what’s in store.
In the 1980s, Horner began using CAT scans to look inside fossilized dinosaur eggs, and he and his colleagues have been delving deeper ever since. At North Carolina State University, Mary Schweitzer has extracted fossil molecules—proteins that survived 68 million years—from a Tyrannosaurus rex fossil excavated by Horner. These proteins show that T. rex and the modern chicken are kissing cousins. At McGill University, Hans Larsson is manipulating a chicken embryo to awaken the dinosaur within: starting by growing a tail and eventually prompting it to grow the forelimbs of a dinosaur. All of this is happening without changing a single gene.
This incredible research is leading to discoveries and applications so profound they’re scary in the power they confer on humanity. How to Build a Dinosaur is a tour of the hot rocky deserts and air-conditioned laboratories at the forefront of this scientific revolution.
first elongating, then growing fringed edges, and finally producing hooked and grooved barbules.” To understand why this couldn’t have happened, it’s necessary first to understand the structure of that lovely feather floating in the wind, or contributing to the fluffiness of your pillow. Feathers are essentially long tubes with branches. The branches also have branches, and those branches again have something like branches, except that the last twiglike extensions are hooks or barbules that hold
different.” Frogs, apparently, grow by their own rules. So what Hans found was going on as the chick embryo grew was that the group of cells (the ventral ectodermal ridge) that was conducting growth just disintegrated, and tail growth stopped. Immediately after the end of tail construction in one area, however, what seemed to be a second, similar area of growth, another ridge, started nearby, and the notochord, the scaffold on which the spinal chord and tail are built, took a ninety-degree turn.
to medicine, since spinal cord defects are among the most common and devastating. If we learn about the growth factors that signal the neural tube to continue developing, it’s possible that this knowledge could be useful in preventing birth defects. Humans do not have tails. But we do have spinal cords, and the growth and development of the two are intimately connected. In spina bifida, for instance, incomplete development of the spinal cord can leave an infant with painful and sometimes lethal
Experimental Zoology 300B (2003): 1-4. Wolpert, Lewis. The Triumph of the Embryo. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993. Zimmer, Carl. At the Water’s Edge: Fish with Fingers, Whales with Legs, and How Life Came Ashore but Then Went Back to Sea. New York: Touchstone/ Simon & Schuster, 1999. CHAPTER SIX Dubrow, Terry J., Phillip Ashley Wackym, and M. A. Lesavoy “Detailing the Human Tail.” Annals of Plastic Surgery 20, no. 4 (1988): 340-44. Larsson, Hans C. E., and Günter P. Wagner.
INDEX A Abelson, Philip Acanthostega addictions adenine Adventure Thru Inner Space (attraction) Africa AIDS alanine Alberta, Canada albumin allergic reactions Allosaurus Alvarez, Luis Alvarez, Walter Alvarezsaurids Ambrose, Stephen E. American Association for the Advancement of Science American Museum of Natural History American West amino acids and collagen and DNA in fossils and immune-system response and osteocalcin amphibians anatomy ancestral traits