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Suppose T-Rex And Ever, a sister company of T-Rex Forever LLC tries to use advanced CRISPR technology to engineer a hybrid T-Rex so that it is still as aggressive as ever but will not be interested in human being, would such a technology be possible? Statistically speaking people would still die as a result of taking selfie while photo bombed by rampaging dinosaur... did I over estimate the potential of CRISPR or should I just keep it on leash?

Appendix

CRISPR (/ˈkrɪspər/) is a family of DNA sequences in bacteria. The sequences contain snippets of DNA from viruses that have attacked the bacterium. These snippets are used by the bacterium to detect and destroy DNA from similar viruses during subsequent attacks. These sequences play a key role in a bacterial defence system, and form the basis of a technology known as CRISPR/Cas9 that effectively and specifically changes genes within organisms. (source)

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  • $\begingroup$ If it ignores humans how will it avoid stomping and sweeping with its heavy tails? $\endgroup$ – jean Dec 11 '17 at 17:13
  • $\begingroup$ The answer to pretty much any gene editing question, especially involving CRISPR, is "eventually, sure" $\endgroup$ – Punintended Nov 13 '18 at 22:24
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Genetics aren't that far yet.

Currently genetics is mostly understood as chemistry. You can, for example, use genetic modifications to make an organism capable of synthesizing a specific enzyme to metabolize a specific protein.

But how genes affect the structure of the brain and how brain structures affect behavior patterns is still a big unknown. The fiasco with the very aggressive africanised honey bees (a traditional crossbreed and not genetically engineered) hints that genetics do affect aggressiveness, but we are still far away from isolating the responsible genes and understanding how they interact. Making a genetic modification which results in a behavior modification as specific as "eat everything except two-legged, upright-walking beings with a height between 1 and 2 meters" is science fiction.

However, there is one theory that tyrannosaurus rex was in fact not a predator but a scavenger. This is considered a fringe theory among paleontologists, but without any live t-rexes around to study, the final judgment on this is still out. If this theory turns out true after all, they might in fact not be as dangerous as they look.

Also, keep in mind the "nature vs. nurture" debate. If t-rexes were trained from an early age that humans aren't food, they might refrain from hunting them. How easily trainable t-rexes would be is completely hypothetical.

And then there is a another thing: Humans might just taste bad. Remember that t-rexes are from an age where humans didn't exist yet. Their olfactory senses are tuned for recognizing prey animals from their time as tasty. A t-rex might attack a human once and then spit it out in disgust to never look at a human again. Bad for that one human who is now likely dead or has at least life-threatening injuries, but good for all other humans the t-rex will meet. The same thing applies to sharks, by the way. With most shark attacks, the shark bites the human once and then leaves. The theory is that it mistakes the human for a sea animal and leaves as soon as it notices its mistake.

The last point is in fact one where genetics might help. You could modify their olfactory senses to be hyper-sensitive to some molecule which occurs in the body odor of humans but not in that of more desirable prey animals. So humans would just smell disgusting for the t-rex. But this is quite a gamble, because you might also accidentally get the opposite result and enable the t-rex to track humans in a far wider range by their smell. Good luck!

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Possibly. Animals are born with ingrained instinctual responses to certain characteristics in other animals. Fear of snakes, attraction towards a prey species, etc. These things don't have to be learned by the animal, so they are being inherited in some fashion. Currently we only know of genetic inheritance via DNA (and possibly epigenetics/hormonal changes during pregnancy, which we don't know much about and shouldn't affect an egg gestating dinosaur anyway).

So presumably a fear of bipedal organisms could be instilled into a T-rex embryo. Of course if sufficiently hungry, threatened, or acclimated to humans, it might override this instinctual response, but it is at least a good start. Plus it serves as a good base for additional learned responses for the T-rex (it gets tased whenever it gets close to a human, for example) that reinforces the genetic instinct. I don't think we actually know how instincts are inherited (i.e. the specific gene sequence), just that DNA is likely the only way they can be.

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You ask if a T-Rex can be genetically engineered to become more docile with humans, while still being a true carnivore.

Let's give a look at a real life example: dogs.

They have been derived from wolves (wild carnivores) and selectively bred to select more friendly behavior toward the bald apes, together with other features.

Selective breeding is nothing else than a slow paced genetic engineering, and I think you agree with me that dogs, no matter how domesticated they are, can still be (trained to be) harmful or lethal to humans.

To answer your question, it might be possible to select more gentle behaving T-Rex (call it Tyrannosaurus Rex Docilior maybe?), assuming that someone knows which genes have to be tweaked to achieve this, but still the puppy will come with some risk, and not only when it tries to jump on your lap next to the fireplace...

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    $\begingroup$ About this, keep in mind that wolves where social, cooperating animals to begin with. They naturally live in social groups, humans possibly just turned out to be as good a partner as another wolf. This base social behaviour may be missing in T-Rex, so be prepared for a more complex process. $\endgroup$ – Layna Dec 11 '17 at 13:44
  • $\begingroup$ @Layna, agree with you, and also has to be proven which genes (if any) are involved $\endgroup$ – L.Dutch Dec 11 '17 at 13:46
  • $\begingroup$ Can you imagine a 12 ton poddle with razor fangs the size of long daggers? Can you imagine it being docile? $\endgroup$ – jean Dec 11 '17 at 16:59
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    $\begingroup$ @jean A dog will try to fit in, because it's a social creature. Also, when you work based on Alpha-Theory, the dog will still work to find his place, so it works. But most of the time, different techniques work just as well, and mean a lot less stress for all involved :). $\endgroup$ – Layna Dec 11 '17 at 18:18
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    $\begingroup$ @Layna As far I has read (not much) it's not the alfa theory but the dominance thecnique is wrong. Never believed you do need to be hasrh with your dog nor your family. Anyway can be hard to tame and control something bigger than an elephant and not smart/social as one $\endgroup$ – jean Dec 11 '17 at 18:22
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Predators usually avoid eating poisonous animals because said poisonous animals are marked by loud colour schemes. IF this is a genetic trait and not learned behaviour (presumably not because the first learning experience would likely end in death) and IF your scientists can find the exact genes that are responsible for it and IF these genes are expressed the same way when edited into dinosaur DNA then possibly yes. (And maybe you could substitute loud colour scheme with bipedal body plan because if you could already do all this then the rest would be child's play.)

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Genetic Engineering is the process of customizing a species genetics to meet certain desires. CRISPR is merely a tool recently developed in our ongoing advancement towards domination of the genome.

CRISPR isn't some all powerful tool that lets us do whatever we want. We still don't fully understand genetics and without that understanding we will never be able to accomplish all that is in the realm of possibility.

There is no genetic trait that predisposes an animal to being docile towards another specific specie. However there are genetic traits that make an animal more docile, impressionable, and prone to training. These are traits that domestication enhances. We could someday be able to make domesticate-able T-Rex that could be conditioned to not hurt humans just like we can train lions to not hurt humans. Obviously, this isn't ever going to be a fool-proof process.......

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