Why The Triceratops Was Sick in Jurassic Park
Jurassic Park didn't fully explain why the Triceratops had fallen ill, but more background information was provided in the book and script.
While touring John Hammond's (Richard Attenborough) theme park in Jurassic Park, the trio of experts encountered a sick Triceratops, but the movie didn't spend much time explaining the dinosaur's illness. Based on Michael Crichton's 1990 novel, the sci-fi adventure film was notably directed by Steven Spielberg and produced by Kathleen Kennedy. Not only did Jurassic Park become the highest-grossing film in 1993, but it also emerged the highest-grossing movie in history up to that point, taking the title from Titanic. Some of the movie's biggest lingering questions, however, can be answered through Crichton's book, as well as the original script.
After a dinosaur handler was killed, Hammond welcomed experts to Isla Nubar to deem his new theme park was safe for visitors. The invited experts were paleontologist Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Neill), paleobotanist Dr. Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern), and mathematician/theorist Dr. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum). Following the group's rundown of the visitor center and lab, the trio accompanied others in a caravan of vehicles to tour the park. The tour doesn't go as planned since many of the dinosaurs fail to appear, but they eventually came across a creature in need of medical attention.
When the cars come across the sick Triceratops, Alan immediately jumped out, and was followed by the rest of the passengers. While investigating the situation, Ellie questioned if the dinosaur ate poisonous berries by a nearby West Indian Lilac plant. The park employees described the dinosaur's symptoms before mentioning that the illness would return every six weeks. After inspecting a nearby gathering of rocks, Ellie analyzed the dinosaur droppings. Without clarifying the dinosaur's illness, she decided to stay behind as the rest of the group moved on with the rest of the tour. As the movie quickly glanced over the subplot, a deleted scene, which followed more closely to the book, explained the sickness in greater detail.
The Sick Dinosaur Scene Was Expanded In The Jurassic Park Novel & Script
The tour group found a sick Stegosaurus instead of a Triceratops in Crichton's novel. Suffering from the same symptoms, it was noted that the particular dinosaur ate fruits and vegetables, but in order to digest the food, it also ate small stones to act as a grinder in the stomach. There was then a realization that the stones the dinosaur was eating were located near the West Indian Lilac plants. The Stegosaurus was known to regurgitate the stones every six weeks before ingesting new ones, but in doing so, it inadvertently ate the poisonous berries.
While Jurassic Park briefly focused on the poisonous plant and nearby stones, it didn't spend much time on the sick dinosaur. There was more context in the original script that actually made it into a deleted scene. The expanded sequence would have shown Tim (Joseph Mazzello) finding smooth stones by the plant, allowing Ellie and Alan to explain how the Triceratops got sick. It would have also concluded the mystery as to why the illness returned every few weeks. This was just the first warning sign that the theme park employees weren't fully equipped to handle an island full of cloned dinosaurs. And later, it was highlighted again in Jurassic World when another dinosaur needed medical attention shortly before the Indominus Rex escaped.