Velociraptor is Mostly Known By Fictional Portrayals
The little information that most people know about the Velociraptor can usually be traced to the 1993 film Jurassic Park, but there is more fiction to the film than most realize. One of the most frequently cited inaccuracies is the size of the depicted Velociraptor. Although the film makers got the ferocious predator part right, the Velociraptor was actually much smaller in real life than in the film, in which the creature was depicted as a larger animal probably to increase the scariness factor. The Velociraptor in the film is actually more like its larger cousin, the Deinonychus, which is in the same dromaeosaur family but was found in North America. Other aspects of the film’s portrayal of the creature were misleading too, but if you enjoyed the Velociraptor from the film, don’t fret. The real Velociraptor is more interesting than what could be dreamed up by any screenwriter.
|91 kg (200 lbs)
|1.8 meters (5.9 feet)
|0.8 meters (2.5 feet) at the hips
|Mongolia, China and Russia
What did Velociraptor look like?
Velociraptor was a Bipedal Carnivore in Mongolia 71-75 Million Years Ago
Scientists have recently found evidence in Mongolia that points to the Velociraptor having feathers. A fossil of a forelimb, which was exceptionally well preserved, was discovered to have quill knobs. The quill knobs show where ligaments attached flight figures to bone. Scientists had long suspected Velociraptor to have this. Specimens up until that point had no quill knobs, the lack of which wouldn’t prove an animal didn’t have feathers, but the finding of those quill knobs means that scientists now they have proof that Velociraptor indeed had a feathered coat, just like most other members of the dromaeosaur family. There are several speculations about the purpose of the feathers, such as colorful plumage for mating or body temperature regulation. The theory of body temperature regulation is also what leads scientists to believe that the Velociraptor was warm-blooded. Their feathers are much like those of modern birds. But don’t worry, Velociraptors can’t fly. Evidence points to the Velociraptor being flightless. It has similar “hands”, or manus, to modern birds, but doesn’t have the wings to support flight because of its disproportionately large weight for its size. If an average person happened to see a Velociraptor today, they might mistake it for a strange bird, perhaps a cross between an ostrich and a rooster.
Physical Attributes of Velociraptor
The Velociraptor was smaller than other dinosaurs of the same dromaeosaur family but it had similar attributes which were used to the same predatory advantage. It was bipedal, with a large hook-like claw on each hind foot used to kill prey. Physically, it was different from other dromaeosaurs with the shape of it’s long and low shaped head. There were about 28 widely spaced teeth on each side of it’s skull, getting progressively stronger and sharper towards the back, which aided in gripping it’s prey. The tail was about 60 percent of the total length and it extended rigidly. A Velociraptor was only capable of side to side movement with their tails. Scientists believe that this was for stability while running and turning at high speeds.
What did Velociraptor eat?
Velociraptor was a “Fighting Dinosaur”
The specimen of two dinosaurs, one of which is a Velociraptor, shows the two skeletons in a struggle. It was preserved in an ancient burial of sand that happened very suddenly, such as a collapsing dune. Thus, the pose was preserved along with the skeletal structures. The specimen provides valuable proof of the Velociraptor’s predatory behavior. In the pose, the Velociraptor is lying underneath the other skeleton, Protoceratops, an herbivore. The claw of the first is imbedded in the throat of the second, which means that Velociraptor’s preferred attacking method could have been to “go for the jugular” in an attempt to do the most damage in the fastest time.
Velociraptor was a carnivore, so it ate plenty of meat besides Protoceratops. It was smaller than many other dinosaurs, but very fast so it was probably able to eat a wide variety of meat. Scientists note the similarity between dromaeosaurs and eagles and hawks. Recently they have developed a model of predation called “raptor prey restraint”. Because of the similarity in feet and claws between Velociraptors and some birds of prey, it is now thought that Velociraptor leaped onto its prey and held it captive with its huge claws and body weight.
In addition to hunting it’s prey, the Velociraptor is thought to be a scavenger. “Late stage carcass consumption” was interpreted to be the reason for a discovery of some dromaeosaurid teeth that had been shed near the Protoceratops bone which had tooth marks on it. Scientists say that is evidence for scavenging behavior as well as further evidence that Velociraptor ate Protoceratops. Scientists also found a bone of a Pterosaur in the belly of a Velociraptor skeleton in the Gobi desert of Mongolia. Normally, a Velociraptor wouldn’t attack a Pterosaur because it flies and has a huge wingspan. That also points to the Velociraptor having some scavenging tendencies.
The Metabolism of Velociraptors
The Velociraptor had extremely high energy requirements when it hunted for prey and that is one reason it was probably warm blooded. Another sign of being warm blooded is that feather or fur covered animals typically need that feature for insulation.
How did Velociraptor move?
Velociraptor was bipedal, which means two-footed. It ran on it’s hind legs and was very fast, over 20 mph. Some scientists theorize that it could have reached speeds of even 40 mph in short bursts. That is actually how it got it’s name. “Velociraptor” comes from the Latin words velox, which means ‘swift’, and raptor, which means ‘robber’. It’s amazing speed at running more than made up for the fact that it’s forelimbs were too short for flight. The tail is believed to have provided a counterbalance effect.
Did the Velociraptor hunt together or individually?
There is some debate about whether the Velociraptor hunted in packs or individually. It is commonly believed to be a pack animal, but there is no specific evidence in the fossil records of the Velociraptor hunting in packs. There is evidence of other dromaeosaurs hunting in packs. The pack hunter theory came about when three dromaeosaurs called Deinonychus were found around a herbivorous dinosaur in Montana. But paleontologists disagree on even that detail. Some argue that the three Deinonychus were actually fighting over feeding rights. They weren’t working together at all.
History and Discovery of Velociraptor
The First Velociraptor Discovery
The first Velociraptor fossil was found by Peter Kaisen in the Gobi Desert of Mongolia on 11 August 1923. He was a paleontology technician at the American Museum of Natural History and he was on an expedition with the AMNH when he recovered the specimen. It was a complete but broken skull. Also found was a claw from the toe of what was assumed to be the same skeleton. The next year, the museum president announced his new genus Velociraptor and gave that name to the creature from which the claw and skull had originated.
The “Fighting Dinosaur” Discovery
The incredible specimens in found action mentioned above are considered a national treasure in Mongolia, where they were discovered. A team of Polish and Mongolian scientists found the skeletons in the white sandstone cliffs of the Gobi Desert, which is known for the close to perfection preservation of fossils in it’s sandy dunes. The dinosaur foes were preserved in their combative pose about 80 million years ago.
A well preserved skeleton that strongly resembles a Velociraptor, except it can’t be completely verified without a skull, was found in 1990 by Mongolian and Chinese researchers on an exhibition in Mongolia. The fossil was dubbed the Ichabodcraniosaurus as a literary reference to the headless character of Ichabod Crane from the short story “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” by Washington Irving.
Significance of the Velociraptor in History
Many people know about the Velociraptor from the scary scenes in Jurassic Park, and although seeing the dinosaur would be terrifying in real life, there is much more to know about the Velociraptor than what the film portrays. We have learned that Velociraptors have feathers and that we can look at modern birds of prey to tell us clues about the hunting methods of these carnivores. But there is still much that remains to be discovered about the Velociraptor.