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'Jurassic Park 4' flies in the face of science by cutting feathered dinosaurs

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velociraptor dinosaur feathers (Linda Bucklin /
velociraptor dinosaur feathers (Linda Bucklin /

The Jurassic Park franchise is set to return next summer, but much has changed in our understanding of dinosaurs since Steven Spielberg's raptors first made audiences hold onto their butts back in 1993. It's now accepted that many of them were covered in feathers, for example, with dinosaurs' role in the evolution of birds more clearly defined. It appears, however, that Jurassic Park 4 director Colin Trevorrow is unconcerned by such discoveries.

Trevorrow hasn't gone into further details — if the post is legitimate, the director doesn't seem to be the most prolific of Twitter users with only 186 tweets, 2,334 followers, and an unverified account. Presumably he is concerned about preserving the legacy and continuity of Jurassic Park; the original movie wasn't a paragon of scientific accuracy itself, with its six-foot-tall doorknob-turning velociraptors and venom-spitting dilophosaurs. Jurassic Park III, on the other hand, featured velociraptors that had something approaching plumage on their heads and necks, though this was more of a token nod to science rather than strict faithfulness to paleontology.

But the simple announcement has sparked some controversy online nonetheless. Science writer Brian Switek took to his Laelaps blog at National Geographic to bemoan the lack of feathers, arguing that the movie will "turn its back on a critical aspect of dinosaur lives."

"Velociraptor was definitely a feathery dinosaur, and Tyrannosaurus probably was, as well. In fact, other dinosaurs more distantly-related to birds - such as Triceratops - at least sometimes sported swaths of bristles, quills, or similar body coverings in addition to the pebbly tubercles of their skin. Dinosaurs were far stranger and flashier than anyone expected... if Velociraptor and Tyrannosaurus are reprising their roles, these dinosaurs should certainly have some kind of plumage. That comes right from fossil evidence and evolutionary logic."

Paleontologist Mark Witton agrees, saying on his blog that Jurassic Park 4 will miss a "terrific chance to affirm modern concepts of dinosaur palaeobiology with a wide audience" if it leaves out feathers entirely, and questions if Trevorrow's tweet was either a marketing stunt or an attempt to test the waters with the fanbase. After all, there's very little information on the movie as of yet; the Safety Not Guaranteed director's involvement was first reported by Deadline under two weeks ago.

Jurassic Park 4 marks a major step up in profile for Trevorrow, and it's understandable that he may want to assuage fans' fears of a radical departure for Jurassic Park. But the nature of the announcement doesn't necessarily bode well for the upcoming movie — as Switek argues, "there is something undeniably unsettling and scary about envisioning a Velociraptor cleaning blood from its colorful plumage after a kill."