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Fossil Revival

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Zombie T-Rex is all the rage these days.

Mr. Stone: This device can take a fossil and extract genetic data from it, and clone a copy of the ancient Pokémon!
Ruby: Eeeeee that is so cool how do you make them from just data how do you know what to feed them ARE THEY REALLY DINOSAURS?!

So there's some creature long extinct, but there are fossils of it. Well, to twist an old saying, where there's a fossil, there's a way...a way to bring it Back from the Dead with a dose of Applied Phlebotinum.

Realistically, an actual fossil is nothing more than lithified remains, and little if any actual genetic material will have survived (if we're dealing with a straight-up Necromancer however, then the problem instead is that the process of lithification gradually replaces the bones with bone-shaped rocks).note  Sometimes the writers attempt to bypass this, by having said remains preserved in ice or amber. While this wouldn't work for most prehistoric animals due to DNA decaying over time, it's more plausible to the audience, so it gets a pass. Of course, when dealing with more fantastic ways of bringing fossils to life (such as the aforementioned necromancy), these objections don't really matter.

This one fits squarely under Artistic License – Biology. If the fossil is simply reanimated, that also counts as necromancy.

Sub-Trope to Not So Extinct. Compare and contrast Undead Fossils, where the revived animal is technically still dead. In some cases, the revived creatures may be kept in an Extinct Animal Park.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • In Pokémon Heroes, one of the villains uses a device to resurrect a Kabutops and Aerodactyl from fossils to attack Ash and friends.

    Comic Books 
  • 2000 AD has a dinosaur park created from DNA cloned from fossils.note  Judge Dredd runs into "Satunus", a particularly vicious T. rex that had escaped from the park, in several adventures.
  • Spider-Man: In one issue, Stegron invents a ray that allows him to transform dinosaur fossils in museums into living dinosaurs, which he then uses to rampage through New York.

    Comic Strips 
  • Modesty Blaise: The "The Return of the Mammoth" arc involves a plan by Soviet scientists to fertilise eggs taken from a frozen mammoth and carry them to term inside an African elephant. This is actually Ripped from the Headlines, although it's being done by American scientists and it's being held back by their inability to find a suitable frozen mammoth.

    Fan Works 
  • Boldores And Boomsticks: Mr. Stone shows off the fossil revival machine to Team RWBY while they tour Devon Corp.'s headquarters. Ruby is amazed by the the technology and gets into an argument with Weiss about whether it's more impressive than controlling the weather.
  • Outsiders: While exploring Glittering Cave, Saito finds a fossilized jawbone that he uses to clone his Tyrunt, Shogun.
  • A Possible Encounter for a Phantom: Vlad Plasmius brings a prehistoric beast called a Terakon back to life that acts as his new living superweapon as Danny Phantom and Kim Possible seek to stop him and his new group of their villains called "The Faction" from reviving an army of these dragon beasts to life. However, the Terakon already brought to life seems to be smarter than expected to be.
  • Vigil: The quarians were driven extinct by the Ethereals long in the past, and in the present the geth want humanity to help them revive the quarian species from genetic material they recovered from their bodies.
  • In Everqueen, Isha brings back a lot of extinct species, or at least ones no longer found on Terra. One chapter has her watching a white tiger family she grew from material and data provided by the Emperor.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Babylon A.D.. Aurora is saddened to learn from Toorop that tigers have gone extinct in the wild when she observes a tiger pen next to a Russian train station. He explains that they're not "real" tigers, but second-generation clones: copies of copies.
  • The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms: Nuclear testing in the Arctic resurrects a frozen Rhedosaurus — a fictional species of vicious dinosaur.
  • Carnosaur follows Doc Smith and Ann Thrush in their efforts to thwart Dr. Jane Tiptree's plan to exterminate the human race with a lethal virus and replace them with her own genetically created dinosaurs.
  • Doctor Mordrid: During the climax, the villain animates a Tyrannosaurus skeleton to kill Mordrid, who animates a frozen mammoth to fight it in response.
  • Jurassic Park: Over the movies' course, a series of companies recreate dinosaurs through fossilized DNA from amber-trapped mosquitoes and then use them to create futuristic theme parks. This inevitably backfires every time a new park is opened, with the dinosaurs escaping from their enclosures in some way or another and rampaging through the park.
  • Mammoth 2006: An alien crash-lands in a small town that has a frozen mammoth in its museum. The alien gets inside of the mammoth, brings it to life, and goes on a soul-sucking rampage.
  • Triassic Attack is about a trio of dinosaur skeletons (a raptor, Pteranodon, and Tyrannosaurus) being accidentally revived by a Magical Native American and going on a rampage.

  • Animorphs: In The Extreme, the Yeerks resurrect the Venber, an extinct alien species, to use as an additional variety of enslaved troops.
  • At the Mountains of Madness has a pretty literal example: what appear to be weird fossils turn out to be dormant but alive Elder Things.
  • Blindsight: Vampires went extinct around the time that humanity discovered architecture, as they have fatal seizures when they see right angles due to these screwing with their advanced pattern-finding instincts. By the mid-21st century, a biomedical corporation reconstructs their genome for their superior mathematical and hibernation abilities.
  • Carnosaur, written six years before Michael Crichton ran with the idea, uses this trope to recreate dinosaurs from mummified fossil remains.
  • Elatsoe: Ellie can summon the ghosts of animals, which she uses to revive a trilobite. Her grandmother used this ability to revive a mammoth and tame it.
  • In "The Eternal Wall", by Raymond Z. Gallun, a million years in the future the prairie dog scientist Loy Chuk discovers the remains of Ned Vince, a man from the 20th century, who has drowned in an alkaline lake and been subsequently buried in sediments, leaving a petrified corpse. Loy Chuk's advanced technology is able to restore Ned on a molecular level, bringing him back to life.
  • Existence: Chimeric neanderthals become one of five recognized varieties of human. In the very end, it's said that some of the Emissaries were enticed to cooperate with the new Artifact plan by offering to resurrect their species using salvaged alien technology that could create cells from scratch.
  • In "Founding Fathers" by Stephen Dedman, set on a newly colonized planet, it's mentioned in passing that the animals the colonists brought with them as frozen embryos include not only the obvious things like cattle and deer but also mammoths and passenger pigeons.
  • The Godwhale by T. J. Bass has people on future Earth thinking about restoring extinct ocean life — they have the technology, it's just that restoring the complete self-sustaining system is a problem. They also try to restore another extinct and dangerous life form — a modern-day human — in order to battle other similar creatures threatening them. In order for it to stay loyal, they create it without the ability to synthesize certain amino acids. That was sixteen years before Crichton.
  • Great Gusliar: One of the short stories, Retrogenetics, is entirely about the trope. Professor Minz's recreation of several prehistoric species, including the pterodactyl and the cave bear, is extremely successful, and the animals live contentedly in a reserve. One journalist tries to badmouth the experiment, saying that there is too much danger involved with wildlife, let alone long-extinct wildlife. He is later bitten by his own Siamese cat.
  • The Immortals: In the third book, Daine flies into an Unstoppable Rage when she believes Numair to be dead. Said Unstoppable Rage involves not only amassing an army of living animals but also reanimating the myriad dinosaur skeletons hanging around the Carthaki palace.
  • Manifold: Space: One of the Gaijin's experiments following their arrival on Earth is the revival of extinct animals.
  • Mirabile: It's mentioned that geneticists back on Earth were having some success in reconstructing extinct species, and a few were included with the plants and animals the colonists took to Mirabile. In one scene, members of the Australian Guild celebrate the imminent resurrection of the thylacine.
  • Ricky Ricotta's Mighty Robot: General Jackrabbit uses his DNA with fossil skulls to create the Jurassic Jackrabbits.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire: At the series' start, dragons are extinct and all that remains are some fossilized eggs. By the end of the first book, that's no longer true, as Daenerys has managed to revive three fossilized eggs and hatch them into baby dragons.
  • Steel Beach: Brontosaurs have been revived to serve as food animals on the Moon.
  • Stielauge Der Urkrebs: At the end of the book, Stielauge is revived by god in order to show the children his adventures.
  • Thursday Next: Advanced genetic technology has been used to resurrect numerous extinct species; according to Thursday, there was a fad for reconstructed pets a while before the series' start.
    • Neanderthals are the most socially impactful of the resurrected species and are generally treated almost — but not quite — as people like modern humans. The use of Homo sapiens DNA to fill in a missing gap in their genome is a plot point later.
    • Dodos and thylacines are fairly common pets, and mammoth migrations a periodic nuisance. Stellers' sea cows are mentioned as well.

    Live-Action TV 

    Tabletop Games 
  • Call of Cthulhu: In the second book of the Spawn of Azathoth adventure, the spell "Call Children of Atlach-Nacha" can be used to return spider fossils to life.
  • Dungeons & Dragons: A supplement for 3rd Edition includes a template for animated skeletons created from fossils rather than recently dead bones.
  • Magic: The Gathering has Project Riptide, where some scientists found fossils of the Sliver race and decided to bring them back and study them. It goes horribly wrong when the Slivers multiply out of control and break out of containment, overrunning the island and killing almost everybody.
  • Pathfinder: Necromancy can reanimate fossils into a nasty skeleton variant that can petrify creatures with a touch.
  • RuneQuest: Centaurs are mentioned in several old myths but were long extinct when History began. Modern centaurs originated when the Empire of the Wyrms Friends performed grotesque medical experiments, grafting parts of creatures together to reform extinct species that were believed to be necessary to populate the mythic era that they sought.

    Video Games 
  • Eyewitness Virtual Reality: Dinosaur Hunter has a mode where you can dig up dinosaur fossils and then reassemble the skeletons. After doing so, the dinosaurs will come back to life and randomly wander the museum.
  • Fate/Grand Order: Mary Anning's Noble Phantasm, Duria Antiquior — A More Ancient Dorset, has her bring her fossils to life to Zerg Rush the enemy.
  • Fossil Fighters does this more directly, with dinosaurs being revived from fossils. However, the technology that does so is a little... funky and gives the critters it revives elemental powers.
  • Hellforces have the cliffside laboratory stage, where you're inexplicably attacked by raptor-like dinosaurs revived by Baphomet Co.'s facilities.
  • The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess: The boss fight at the Arbiter's Grounds is against Stallord, Twilit Fossil, a giant skeleton dragon, which is reanimated by Zant and his dark sword.
  • The premise of Let's Build a Zoo: Dinosaur Island is that scientists have discovered a method to resurrect animals from newly-unearthed fossils.
  • Mass Effect 3 has you search for fossils to resurrect an extinct dinosaur species called the kakliosaur. Shepard even says s/he found the fossil encased in amber.
  • Monster Sanctuary: Shockhoppers were hunted to extinction centuries ago, so the only way to obtain one in the present is to bring a Dodo egg to Lady Stasis, who will then convert it into a Shockhopper egg.
  • Nanosaur is about genetically engineered sapient raptors from the 41st century going back in time to retrieve dinosaur eggs.
  • Parasite Eve: A kind of semi-sentient organic goo-thing, resulting from an accidental Assimilation Plot, disappears into the New York Museum of History. Apparently deciding that dinosaurs are awesome, it then flows across the exhibited skeletons and revives them as entirely fleshy — and quite aggressive — dinosaurs.
  • Pokémon:
    • Nearly every generation of the main series has a place where players could take their fossils to be revived as Pokémon. The resulting Pokémon are also almost always part-Rock type (with the exception of Cranidos and its evolution Rampardos, which are purely Rock type). The Pokédex entries for Tyrantrum and Mega Aerodactyl also reveal that the revival process is imperfect and that the resurrected Pokémon don't necessarily look the same as they did in prehistoric times.
    • Genesect was revived from a fossil by Team Plasma, who also turned it into a Cyborg, making it a Steel-type rather than a Rock type.
    • Calling the fossil Pokémon in the Galar region "improperly revived" is a massive understatement. The fossils in the region are all broken up into halves, and you must combine two halves to make a completed Pokémon; before reviving it. There are two front halves and two back halves that you can find. Here's the problem though: They are from four different Pokémon. The front halves come from an Electric-type bird ("-zolt") and a Water-type fish ("-vish"), while the back halves come from a Dragon-type dinosaur ("Draco-") and an Ice-type aquatic creature ("Arcto-"). You can combine either front half with either back half, resulting in four Mix-and-Match Critters that whose Pokedex entries imply that they tend to live in constant suffering. None of them are part Rock-type, instead having the typing of the two halves. There is no way to obtain the missing halves in order to revive these Pokémon properly.
    • The Occulture magazine invokes this with the theory that Slither Wing is the result of the fossil revival technology relatively common in the Pokémon world being used on a prehistoric Volcarona fossil. However, the book then notes that no actual fossils of Volcarona from such ancient times are actually known to exist.
  • Ratchet & Clank: All 4 One: Dr. Nefarious has Lawarence reanimate the Light-Eating Zegrute on display in the middle of the city.
  • Resident Evil 4: Las Plagas are revealed to be prehistoric, and were recovered from fossils in an excavation underneath the castle. God knows how old they really were.
  • Spectrobes has the titular creatures being revived in this fashion. However, their "fossils" are less traditional fossils and more stone statues in their shapes, making them more of a kind of Sealed Good in a Can.
  • Stellaris: One anomaly has the player recover DNA from the fossil of a long-dead molluscoid on an asteroid. Cloning technology allows the species, the Azizians, to be revived with a variety of outcomes based on player choice and chance.
  • World of Warcraft:
    • The archaeology profession released in the Cataclysm expansion allows players to find raptor fossils and rebuild them into a moving mount and pet. This process may or may not involve electricity and necromantic magic.
    • Necromancy is very much a thing, and all manner of creatures have been resurrected this way: including some that have been dead a very long time and reduced to skeletons if not exactly fossilized. Sindragosa, preserved under the ice of Northrend is a particularly dramatic example.
  • Zoo Tycoon 2: The Extinct Animals expansion pack lets the player find fossils and clone a baby dino/extinct animal from it. If the player gets a 100% on the minigame required to clone the critter, the baby becomes a Super Clone, which is bigger, lives longer, and won't get sick.

  • Fellowship Of Heroes: A "Dr. Yesterday" cloned dinosaurs in sufficient numbers that a couple of states had to be evacuated. Texas domesticated them however, resulting in mammoth steaks and brachiosaur rodeos.
  • Schlock Mercenary: Apatosauri are occasionally mentioned on the news as zoo animals, in one "Schlocktoberfest" arc a Mad Scientist introduces megalodons to a terraformed Pleasure Planet.
  • Supermegatopia: The supervillain Carrion raids a natural museum to reanimate its dinosaur skeletons to aid his nefarious plan to find the crown of a king he hated and repurpose it as a litterbox.
  • Xombie: One of the main characters has a pet zombie velociraptor, as whatever brought about the Zombie Apocalypse reanimated dinosaurs in the museum.

  • Left Foot Living Review mentions a religious sect funding research to bring back dinosaurs, apparently with the intent of throwing rocks at them.
  • Orion's Arm features lazurogenics, which has reconstructed and many extinct or even cryptozoological species. Most of them have been provolved such as the Toh Chi Lok, some of whom have transcended to form the archailect "The Archosaurian Entity".
  • SCP Foundation: SCP-250 is one of the few that doesn't require particularly stringent safety protocols, because it's an animated Allosaurus skeleton that behaves like, well, a large predatory carnosaur. It even eats things, although as soon as they fall through its nonexistent throat it loses interest in them, considering them eaten.

    Web Videos 

    Western Animation 
  • Ben 10:
    • Dr. Animo can do this thanks to his Transmodulator which can somehow revive dead cells. He demonstrates this by bringing back a mammoth and later a T rex.
    • Ben 10: Omniverse: Dr Pscyhobos obtains DNA from a skeleton of an extinct Galvan predator to add to the Nemetrix which he intends on using to kill Azmuth.
  • El Tigre: The Adventures of Manny Rivera: While robbing the Natural History Museum, Sartana of the Dead animates several fossil displays with her mystic guitar. When El Tigre fights back, he finds that their bones are much tougher than the usual things Sartana revives, so his Absurdly Sharp Claws end up breaking instead of doing damage.
  • Futurama:
  • Ninjago: Garmadon uses his Mega Weapon's powers to "turn back time" to de-age a fossilized display into a living, ninja-eating grundle.
  • The Penguins of Madagascar: Kowalski creates a cloning machine he plans to use to revive an extinct penguin with a feather sample from a specimen in the Museum of Natural History. Unfortunately, the mission goes wrong and they clone a dodo instead, who turns out to be suicidally reckless, so they have to clone him again... and again, and again, and again.
  • The Super Globetrotters: One episode features Museum Man, who has a device that turns dinosaur skeletons back into live dinosaurs.
  • Transformers: Prime: How Shockwave manages to create the Predacons. We're talking about Mechanical Lifeforms here. He resurrected them using their "Cybernucleic Acid".
  • Where on Earth Is Carmen Sandiego?: Carmen Sandiego once tried to resurrect some large dinosaur from a skeleton. It didn't work, even with the other stuff she stole.
  • Xiaolin Showdown: Jack Spicer once used a Shen Gong Wu called the Rio Reverso to reverse age some oil and turn it into a live dinosaur.

    Real Life 
  • There is a lot of talk about doing this for some extinct animals such as mammoths, but only a few extinct species are theoretically capable of being brought back with existing technology — as DNA is an extremely fragile molecule and decays very quickly, only very recently extinct creatures or ones preserved in unusual conditions (such as in Siberian permafrost) can yield intact genetic material.
    • The extinct Pyrenean ibex was the first — and so far only — animal resurrected by cloning, although it died from lung problems seven minutes after birth, giving it the dubious honor of being the only creature to go extinct twice. In this case, however, the genetic material came from tissue samples taken from the last Pyrenean ibex when it was still alive.
    • A team of Australian scientists is likewise attempting to revive the gastric-brooding frog.
    • Realistically speaking, there's no chance of getting genetic material for something as long-extinct as a non-avian dinosaur — there's simply no way for DNA to survive for the 65 million or more years since their extinction even in ideal conditions, let alone the process of fossilization. So sorry, no T. rex that way. The next best thing would be to "reverse engineer" a non-avian dinosaur by starting with a modern bird's genome and selectively modifying its genome to create... not necessarily an actual non-avian dinosaur, but at something roughly similar to what we think that they were like. This is entirely beyond modern-day genetics but is, at least, possible in a more general sense.
  • While not quite extinct, the black-footed ferret is very close to the brink and is under threat from factors such as inbreeding. To preserve their genetic diversity, a number of samples were taken from a wild population found in the 1980's and have been preserved ever since. One of these samples, taken from a female named Willa, was used to create a clone named Elizabeth Ann in December 2020. She is the first clone of an endangered North American species. While Elizabeth Ann had to receive a hysterectomy before she could breed, more clones are on the way.


Video Example(s):



Thanks to the orange Big Paint Star, what was once a fossil in Marmalade Valley, now a giant, living, breathing, Draggadon brought back to life.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (6 votes)

Example of:

Main / FossilRevival

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