Montana State University

Jack Horner to be featured on Discovery Channel

February 11, 2008 -- From MSU News Service

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Tel: (406) 994-4571
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BOZEMAN -- Montana State University paleontologist Jack Horner will be featured in an upcoming Discovery Channel documentary on the possibility of re-creating dinosaurs.

"Dinosaurs: Return to Life?" is scheduled to air at 9 p.m. Eastern time (EST) on Sunday, Feb. 17, but viewers should check local listings. Horner is the Ameya Preserve curator of paleontology at MSU's Museum of the Rockies and Regents Professor of Paleontology in Montana.

"He is the central character of the film," producer and director Dan Levitt said in a telephone interview. "He very prominently talks about his theories."

Levitt wrote in an earlier e-mail that "Advances in genetic engineering are moving so fast that famed paleontologist Jack Horner believes that within our lifetime years it will be possible to retro-engineer a dinosaur-like creature from a bird."

People have dreamed of such a thing since the movie "Jurassic Park," but it seemed impossible until scientists discovered soft tissue in dinosaur bones, Levitt said. The find revived speculation about the possibility of recovering dinosaur DNA.

Mary Higby Schweitzer, a former graduate student of Horner's, announced in 2005 that soft tissues were preserved in a 68-million-year-old dinosaur found in Eastern Montana. Schweitzer is now in the Department of Marine, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at North Carolina State University in Raleigh.

Levitt continued, "Remarkable new genetic advances are revealing that the DNA of dinosaurs and birds, their only living descendants, are extremely similar. And in genetic laboratories, a new breed of dino-hunter is uncovering ancient dinosaur traits in birds' DNA. Their groundbreaking work shows that it would be possible to give a bird teeth, scaly skin, hands, and even a long dinosaur tail."

Evelyn Boswell, (406) 994-5135 or evelynb@montana.edu