A Quick Aside: When the twins were still babies, but old enough to sit up together in the kid section of a shopping cart, I was standing in the checkout line of the grocery store when I was approached by an enthralled French woman. With broken English, she asked the boys’ names to which I replied Robert and David. Raising her hands in the air and turning to her compatriots, she joyfully declared, and I will write the names phonetically as the spelling is no different, “Robear et Daveed!” To this day, Robert is often referred to thusly or, to mix it up a bit, “The Bear Man.”
I don’t know if you read or heard about the latest scientific findings out of North Carolina State University and published in the new edition of “Science” magazine which indicate that the dinosaurs’ closest living relatives are birds, specifically chickens and ostriches. In fact, their kinship to birds is more so than with living reptiles, such as the alligator. The results of this study were determined from the protein in preserved soft tissues from the bones of a 68 million-year-old T. rex excavated in 2003 by John R. Horner of Montana State University. Mary H. Schweitzer of North Carolina State University discovered the soft tissue by accident as it was previously thought that marrow and such from dinosaur bones could not stay preserved in the indicated time span but, apparently, the burial site offered greater than usual protection from the elements, hence the non-degraded soft tissue.
I had read about this in the April 25th edition of the New York Times. The following day, Friday, was a half day for the boys which means I pick them up at noon. Now whenever I “leave the compound,” which isn’t often, I typically have NPR dialed in (punched in? inputted digitally?) on my truck’s radio and, at the boys’ pick up time, I was listening to Science Friday with Ira Flatow. He and Mary Schweitzer were discussing this very study when the bus arrived. My two boys jumped in the up-until-now quiet cab, filling it with raucous noise and argument until the words T-Rex were somehow heard and all became quiet.
Robert: They found soft tissue in dinosaur bones???!!! (When he gets going, his excitement knows no bounds.) Hey, that means they could clone the T-Rex and make more.
David (using his best aloof monotone): Robert, didn’t you see “Jurassic Park?”
Robert (ignoring David, I honestly don’t think he even heard him): Yeah, they could clone them! Hey, we could clone them!
Robert dreams big as you can read. He thinks he can do things far out of his grasp and makes copious notes planning it all out, does massive research on the internet, and, once ready, comes to me or his father raring to jumpstart his project. Unfortunately, unlike Dexter in the cartoon “Dexter’s Laboratory,” we do not have a secret hidden la- BOR-a-to-ry. We do not have the means to extract DNA and, in fact, we do not have a dinosaur bone. Please do not mention this to my son who has spent a lot of time since learning this new information, digging in the washes surrounding our home for a large prehistoric femur. He will come crashing down to Earth and make moping an art form. The poor child is a sensitive dreamer like his mother, perhaps even more so.
Back to Friday.
Me: Robert, we don’t have soft tissue from a dinosaur bone.”
Let us pause for a moment of pensive silence.
Robert: Do you think we could use DNA from our chickens and then go to an ostrich farm and get their DNA and make a dinosaur?
Me: Well, Robert, if you can figure out a way, go for it.
David: Didn’t you see “Jurassic Park?!”
We’ll see what happens. If you hear about a giant prehistoric reptile roaming the Sonoran Desert, you’ll know why. I better hide my goats.