A new study argues that a real-life “Jurassic World” could currently exist, just on another planet.
Planets far away from Earth could be harboring species that resemble Earth’s dinosaurs and humans may currently have the ability to find them, according to a new study published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society journal.
“Modern Earth’s light fingerprint has been our template for identifying potentially habitable planets, but there was a time when this fingerprint was even more pronounced — better at showing signs of life,” study author Lisa Kaltenegger said in a statement to The Sun.
According to the study, researchers on Earth could detect such life by searching for compounds that are not currently present on our planet but were during the age of the dinosaurs. That’s because the Earth had higher levels of oxygen, about 30%, during the time of the dinosaurs, allowing the complex creatures to grow. Today, Earth’s oxygen levels have leveled off to 21%.
Those high oxygen levels could be a clue to the kind of life that exists on a faraway planet, the researchers argue, noting that special telescopes can be used to detect similar conditions to what dinosaurs confronted millions of years ago.
One clue scientists can search for is whether a planet is in a Phanerozoic stage, which would allow a planet to host large and complex life forms.
“The Phanerozoic is just the most recent 12% or so of Earth’s history, but it encompasses nearly all of the time in which life was more complex than microbes and sponges,” Cornell University scientist Rebecca Payne told The Sun. “This gives us hope that it might be just a little bit easier to find signs of life — even large, complex life — elsewhere in the cosmos.”
According to Kaltenegger, searching for planets with higher levels of oxygen could lead to the discovery of interesting life forms while also making the search easier.
“Hopefully we’ll find some planets that happen to have more oxygen than Earth right now because that will make the search for life just a little bit easier,” Kaltenegger said. “And, who knows, maybe there are other dinosaurs waiting to be found.”