Paleontology Wiki

Jurassic Park is a novel written by Michael Crichton that was published in 1990. Often considered a cautionary tale on unconsidered biological tinkering in the same spirit as Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, it uses the mathematical concept of chaos theory and its philosophical implications to explain the collapse of an amusement park showcasing certain recreated dinosaur species. It was adapted into a film in 1993.

The book has one sequel, The Lost World.

Plot summary

The novel, in an "introduction", is initially presented as a brief report on the consequences of "The InGen Incident", which occurred in August 1989. This "fiction as fact" presentation had been used by Crichton before, in Eaters of the Dead and The Andromeda Strain. Crichton frames his chapters between the "iterations" of chaotic behavior predicted by the character Ian Malcolm in his (book-within-a-book) report.

The narrative begins by slowly tying together a series of incidents involving strange animal attacks in Costa Rica. After paleontologist Alan Grant and his paleobotanist graduate student Ellie Sattler enter the sequence of queried experts they are abruptly whisked off by billionaire John Hammond (founder and CEO of InGen) for a weekend visit to a "zoological preserve" he has established off the coast of Costa Rica.

Recent events have spooked Hammond's considerable investors and, to placate them, he means for Grant and Sattler to act as fresh consultants. They stand in counterbalance to a rock-star-like mathematician Ian Malcolm and a lawyer representing the investors, Donald Gennaro. Both are pessimistic, but Malcolm, having been consulted before the park's creation, is emphatic in his prediction that the park will collapse, as it is an unsustainably simple structure bluntly forced upon a complex system.

Upon arrival the park is revealed to contain cloned dinosaurs, which have been recreated from damaged dinosaur DNA (found in mosquitoes trapped in amber that sucked blood) that have been spliced with reptilian, avian, or amphibian DNA to fill in the gaps. Hammond proudly showcases InGen's secret advances in genetic engineering and parades them through the island's vast array of automated systems.

To counter Malcolm's dire prognostications with youthful energy Hammond groups the consultants with his grandchildren, Tim and Lex Murphy, who have been sent on vacation while their parents divorce. While touring the park with the children, Grant finds an eggshell seeming to prove Malcolm's earlier assertion that the dinosaurs have been breeding against the geneticists' design (the population graphs proudly introduced earlier were naturally distributed).

Malcolm suggests a flaw in their method of analyzing dinosaur populations (they never bothered to set their software to search the motion detectors for more than the expected number of creatures, only less) and the park's controllers are reluctant to realize that the park has long been operating beyond their constraints. Malcolm also points out the height distribution of the Procompsognathids forms a Gaussian distribution, the curve of a breeding population.

In the midst of this the chief programmer of Jurassic Park's controlling software, Dennis Nedry, attempts some corporate espionage for Lewis Dodgson, an agent of one of InGen's competitors, Biosyn. By activating "trap doors" he wrote into the system, Nedry manages to quickly steal 15 frozen embryos from the lab without being detected by the island's security system. He then attempts to smuggle them out to a contact waiting at the auxiliary dock deep in the park (use of the main dock would be noticed). But his plan goes awry: during a sudden tropical storm Nedry gets lost inside the park and crashes his stolen jeep. He is then spat upon and blinded by a poisonous Dilophosaurus before being eaten.

Nedry's plan called for him to secretly deliver the stolen embryos and return to the park's control room within fifteen minutes but, without Nedry to quietly patch the system, the park's security is left off leaving the security fences deactivated. Without the electrified fences to contain them, dinosaurs begin to escape. A Tyrannosaurus rex attacks the people on tour, thus leaving Grant and the children lost in the park.

Ian Malcolm is gravely injured and spends the remainder of the novel slowly dying as, in between lucid lectures and morphine-induced rants, he tries to help those in the main compound understand their predicament and survive.

The park's upper management—(engineer and park supervisor John Arnold, geneticist Henry Wu, game warden Robert Muldoon, and Hammond) struggle to maintain control over the situation and for a brief while they manage to get the park largely back in order. But a series of arrogant mistakes on their part plunge the park into greater disarray. The viciously intelligent Velociraptors that were locked away close to the central compound finally escape and pick off Wu and Arnold in the ensuing carnage. Muldoon sprains an ankle, and Harding — the chief veterinarian — and Ellie Sattler are also injured. Finally, Grant and the kids slowly make their way back to the central compound carrying news that several young raptors, raised in the island's wilds, were onboard the Anne B when it departed for the mainland.

With no social order left, the survivors organize themselves and eventually secure their own lives. Just when the crisis is largely over, Hammond, furious with being ignored and desperate to regain control, has an accident, is picked apart by scavengers, and dies alone. Gennaro tries to order the island destroyed as a dangerous asset but Grant rejects his authority, claiming that even though they cannot control the island they have a responsibility to understand just what happened and how many dinosaurs have already escaped to the mainland. Finally Grant, Sattler, and Gennaro set out into the park to find the wild raptor nests and compare hatched eggs with the island's revised population tally. Cautious and nonviolent, they emerge unharmed. Word soon reaches them that the crew of the Anne B had discovered and killed the raptor stowaways.

In the end the island is suddenly and violently razed by the fictional Costa Rican Air Force. The survivors of the incident are detained by the United States and Costa Rican governments. They are than later released after agreeing to a non- disclosure agreement. (This is found out in The Lost World.)

Dinosaurs and other extinct animals featured

Dinosaurs and other extinct animals confirmed to be on Isla Nublar in the novels:

  • Apatosaurus (Camarasaurus in some editions)
  • Cearadactylus
  • Dilophosaurus
  • Euoplocephalus
  • Hadrosaurus
  • Hypsilophodon (Dryosaurus was used in context to describe this animal)
  • Maiasaura
  • Microceratops (Callovosaurus in some editions, and Microceratops was renamed to Graciliceratops)
  • Othnielia
  • Procompsognathus
  • Stegosaurus
  • Styracosaurus
  • Triceratops
  • Tyrannosaurus Rex
  • Velociraptor antirrhopus
  • Later editions of the novel list Microceratops in place of Callovosaurus on the population tables presented in the book. Microceratops, however, is observed by characters in the park whereas Callovosaurus is not.
  • Later editions of the novel use Camarasaurus in place of Apatosaurus, although Apatosaurus remains on the population tables presented in the book.
  • A dinosaur presumed to be a coelurosaurus had just begun the DNA extraction procedure at the time the story takes place.
  • In addition to dinosaurs and pterosaurs, several prehistoric plants and at least one species of insect, a giant dragonfly, were also resurrected from extinction for the park...

Biological issues

Main article: Biological issues in Jurassic Park

Scientists and fans of the movie have pointed out that much of what happens in the film is impossible for various reasons[citation needed], one of which includes the idea of where to recover the dinosaur DNA. (The book states that mosquitoes sucked the blood of dinosaurs, then were stuck in tree sap, which became amber, preserving the mosquito and DNA inside) However the novel, and to a greater extent the movie, sparked years of serious debate on the plausibility of cloning dinosaurs.

One of the themes expressed throughout this story and its sequels is that of homeothermic (warm-blooded) dinosaurs, a recent theory popularized by paleontologist Bob Bakker.

While the cinematic incarnation of Jurassic Park used ostrich eggs as vessels to facilitate expression, the novel very specifically utilized "a new plastic with the characteristics of an avian eggshell." The plastic was called "millipore", created by an eponymous subsidiary of InGen.[1]

Film Adaptation

Main article: Jurassic Park (film)

Universal Studios paid Michael Crichton $2 million for the rights to the novel in 1990, before it was even published. In 1993, the Steven Spielberg-directed film adaptation was released. Many plot points from the novel were changed or dropped.

Further reading

The Science of Jurassic Park and The Lost World. Or How to Build a Dinosaur. Rob DeSalle and David Lindley. BasicBooks, New York, 1997. xxix, 194 pp., illus. $18 or C$25.50. ISBN 0-465-07379-4.



  • In the real world, Costa Rica is one of the very few demilitarized states in the world, and therefore does not have the armed forces described in the book.
  • One segment of dinosaur DNA given in the book is actually the common DNA cloning vector pBR322.
  • The character of Alan Grant is based on real life Paleontologist and Maiasaur expert, Jack Horner
  • A mystery creature, a hupia, is mentioned at the beginning of the book.

See also

  • Jurassic Park Visitors Center

External links