Scientist Plans on Resurrecting Tyrannosaurus Rex

Some scientists dream of finding a cure for cancer, others work to find the ultimate energy resource.

Jack Horner wants to bring back the Tyrannosaurus Rex.

Horner is a certified genius. Like Bill Gates he never graduated from college. He didn’t need to waste his time at some ivy league institution. During 1986 he was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship—also known informally as a “genius grant.” That same year he received an honorary doctorate in science from the University of Montana.

Michael Crichton, best-selling author of the world blockbuster “Jurassic Park,” tapped Horner as the Spielberg film version’s on-set consultant. Then he modeled Alan Grant, the hero of the film after paleontologist Horner.  

“I’m the one who didn’t get eaten,” Horner says when asked by the news media which film character represented him.

The resurrection business

Recently, news headlines called the world’s attention to the efforts by a team of Japanese researchers to resurrect the extinct Woolly Mammoth. Their goal, to bring back the creature after 12,000 years, is being advanced using harvested DNA to replace the DNA in an elephant egg.

The idea has galvanized other researchers in the U.S. and Russia to launch their own efforts in a race to resurrect extinct animals.

It promises to be a big business. Zoos around the globe have already indicated interest in having their own baby mammoths on display.

Horner: Man of the thunder lizards

Experts in the field have praised Horner as one of the smartest paleontologists in America. The scientist has made one major discovery after another.

Back in the 1970s Horner had his first amazing discovery. He dug up the first dinosaur eggs with embryos ever found in the West. That milestone was followed with the discovery of nesting grounds of a North American hadrosaur—the first such find in the world. Working with colleague Bob Makela in Montana, the two gave science its first look at dinosaur parenting habits.

Over the ensuing years, Horner discovered new species of never-before-seen dinosaurs. Some carry his name.

It seemed each new earthshaking discovery led him to the next one.

Exploring the eastern Montana marshes during 2000, he came across a well-preserved Tyrannosaurus bone fragment that perished some 68 million years in the past. Intense examination of the fragment astonishingly revealed that five proteins present in the bone are also found in everyday chickens.

The ‘Chickenosaur’

Nine years after that momentous discovery, the ongoing debate among paleontologists regarding the probable molecular linkage that exists between ancient dinosaurs and modern day birds led to a new inquiry termed “evo-devo.”

The scientific inquiry essentially asserts that the record of the past of every living thing is locked within genes.

If true—and strong evidence exists that supports its veracity—then that is the magic key that can unlock the secrets of the past and, more importantly, lead to the ability to eventually resurrect and “lost” species of life. All that’s needed to bring back any extinct lifeform is enough viable genetic material that enables an accurate blueprint of the animal’s physical structure.

But more than that mind-boggling concept, the research showed a pathway that existed where hunting for elusive genetic material may not be necessary at all. Simply engineer the genetic information in a developing fetus to eliminate the modern day traits and emphasize the still present ancient ones. Using that technique, an elephant could birth a mammoth without the need of outside DNA being implanted in an embryo.

And a T-Rex could be genetically back-engineered from a chicken.

The manipulative technique would allow anything to be brought back: Dodo birds, ancient sea life, Woolly Mammoths…the T-Rex. Horner believes the key is embryonic development, not genetics.

Horner explained this idea during a 2009 interview with Wired magazine: “Birds are descendants of dinosaurs. They carry their DNA. So in its early stages, a chicken embryo will develop dinosaur traits like a long tail, teeth and three-fingered hands. If you can find the genes that cancel the tail and fuse the fingers to build a wing—and turn those genes off—you can grow animals with dinosaur characteristics.”

Professor of geology Frank Ettensohn of the University of Kentucky says of Horner, “in science, somebody has to think big and out of the box, and that’s him.” Horner knows his business, the science, is imaginative and credible. He’s a mover and shaker in the world of paleontology and if anyone can bring back dinosaurs it’s him.

Evolution has been proven, Horner declares. “This is evolutionary proof,” he says. “You can’t do this until evolution works.”

Others join Horner

The charismatic Horner’s amazing breakthroughs have inspired a new generation of scientists in different disciplines to follow his lead.

One such scientist is Hans Larsson who’s leading the merging sciences of paleontology and molecular biology. Larsson seeks to resurrect dinosaurs using the method Horner has pioneered. The McGill University professor is enthusiastic about the work and believes that one day he will be walking smaller dinosaurs on a leash.

Currently he’s working on reactivating dormant genes in embryos to resurrect ancestral traits that were lost in the evolutionary process.

The McGill University professor is enthusiastic about the work and believes that one day he will be walking a small, pet dinosaur on a leash.