Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2010/11/01/paleozoic_park/

Enormous Paleozoic flesh-eaters created in lab

Luckless undergrads used to feed hyperoxic horrors

By Lewis Page

Posted in Science, 1st November 2010 12:17 GMT

Updated Crazed boffins in the USA say they have successfully carried out a Jurassic Park-style project in which enormous flesh-eating creatures from the remote prehistoric past have been successfully bred in the laboratory. Incomprehensibly this laboratory is not located on a remote island.

As many readers will doubtless be aware, during the late Paleozoic era the Earth was, if not exactly ruled or terrorised, at the least very seriously bothered by swarms of gigantic dragonflies with wingspans around 70cm across. The monster insects will have been all the more troublesome as dragonflies "need to hunt live prey", according to experts.

One such expert is Dr John VandenBrooks, who has after a lengthy struggle managed to breed such much-enlarged dragonflies in his Arizona laboratory. The large size was achieved by enhancing atmospheric oxygen levels to 31 per cent, as seen in the Paleozoic (today's air is only about 20 per cent O2).

The hard bit, according to the prof, was not the creation of this artificially enriched (or "hyperoxic") atmosphere but the actual care and feeding of the monstrous, prehistoric winged flesh-eaters.

"Dragonflies are notoriously difficult to rear," boasts VandenBrooks. "We are one of the only groups to successfully rear them to adulthood under laboratory conditions."

According to a statement issued by the Geological Society of America:

There is no such thing as dragonfly chow. As juveniles they need to hunt live prey and in fact undergraduate students Elyse Muñoz and Michael Weed working with Dr VandenBrooks had to resort to hand feeding the dragonflies.

It's to be hoped that the unfortunate undergrads escaped from the hyperoxia chambers with their hands and other body parts intact. Plenty more where they came from, no doubt.

Not content with his creation of huge flesh-eating Paleozoic hyper-dragonflies, VandenBrooks also sought to breed greatly enlarged cockroaches and other horrors using similar hypercharged breeding pens. However this time the experiments were a failure, even once the hyper-roaches had been blasted with incredibly powerful energy rays at a handy atom-smasher.

The disappointed prof, perhaps assisted by surviving members of his team, is to reveal details of his accomplishments at a convention in Colorado later today. ®

Updated to Add

Dr VandenBrooks writes in to say:

The dragonflies that we reared in the lab did not have 70 cm wingspans, that is how big they were 300 million years ago. Our dragonflies were only 15% larger than normal, hardly enormous, huge or much-enlarged. Just thought I would inform you of what the results actually were.