Could The Science Behind Jurassic Park Save Our Insects?
You all know about the premise for Steven Spielberg's 1993 Jurassic Park, and hopefully you also know about the global effort going on to the reverse the impending extinction of Bees on Earth , but do you know what they have in common?
It turns out that both are rooted in one scientist's discovery in Lebanon during the 1980s.
The story of this elusive discovery began in Jezzine, a small town within the Mt-Lebanon mountain range in southern Lebanon. Once upon a time, during the mid 1980s, an amber expert from the American University of Beirut named Afti Marka uncovered some 130-150 million year old amber fragments while excavating the rock underneath the cliffs of Mt-Lebanon. Marka discovered that these fragments contained a number of well-preserved Jurassic-period insects. Amazed by what he found, he began studying the samples and developed a tentative hypothesis about what the potential for such well-preserved samples might be -- a hypothesis that we all know so well thanks to Michael Crichton's classic tale, Jurassic Park. Unfortunately, Marka soon disproved his own theory, limiting its influence to the world of science fiction.
The tragedy of this story actually lies in all of the hype and excitement that the film and the novel created around the fictionalization of the research, and the subsequent shadow that was cast upon other directions that Azar's findings could have taken. Once scientists put the fictionalized pseudo-scientific speculations to rest concerning dinosaurs, they moved on from Azar's exceptional fossils, leaving them behind to be forgotten. Such is the nature of over-kill.
Although it has been thoroughly proven by now that we will never be able to recreate dinosaurs, or at least not by the methodology used in Crichton's Jurassic Park - the initial research might soon be making a prominent comeback to the forefront of biological/paleontological research. This time, though, it will be paying more attention to the preserved insects that started it all. Scientists believe that one of the big riddles of the 21st century will be the increasing threat to the survival of insect species that are essential to the balance of Earth's ecosystems.
More to the point, the human race's survival is heavily tied to the survival of insect species. Einstein is rumored to have believed that the human race could only survive about 5 years past the extinction of bees and, whether or not he did predict this, the fact remains that the environment as we know it is completely dependent on the various insect species who all perform specific duties that are crucial to the survival of the human race on Earth.
By examining these Jurassic period insects that have been so well preserved, researchers hope to discover information about the mysterious history of insect evolution that could guide us towards a future direction of insect extinction prevention. It could be that these ancient little creatures hold the key to the elusive insect resilience that allowed many species to survive the various extinction events of the last 200 million years.
So, if scientists can figure out a way to use this key to unlock a solution to the future doom of insects, it could be that the same discovery that inspired a fictional tale of bringing an extinct species back to life will save our species from extinction in the future.