Temporal range: Late Cretaceous
|An artist's illustration of Velociraptor mongoliensis|
Velociraptor (ve·loc·i·rap·tor) (Swift seizer or thief) was a small carnivorous dinosaur, well known thanks to Jurassic Park. It was one of the smaller dromaeosaurs, smaller than Utahraptor and Deinonychus, and was about 2 meters long. It lived in Mongolia and China during the Late Cretaceous, 75 to 71 million years ago.
Fossils found in 2007 show that Velociraptor had long feathers on its forearms.
Velociraptor was a small theropod, with a large sickle-shaped claw on the second toe of its foot, it had a long, narrow, upturned snout, which is different from the other members of its family. The jaws were lined with serrated teeth for tearing flesh, it swallowed its food in gulps instead of chewing, like most theropods. The arms were long and it had strong chest and arm muscles, for grasping onto prey.
Like other dromaeosaurs, it had a falcarian claw on the second digit of its foot. This was raised off the ground, which can be seen in footprints of itself and other related dinosaurs.
Another dromaeosaurid feature that can be clearly seen in the death-pose are the long pieces of bone along the sides of the bones of the tail to stiffen it. This allowed the tail to act as a balance when the animal walked and ran. While this stiffened the vertical mobility, the tail could still swing side to side, possibly acting as a rudder during gliding.
In 1922, the first specimen of Velociraptor mongoliensis (AMNH 6515) was found by the American Museum of Natural History. It was found in the Late Triassic sandstones of the Djadokhta Formation in the Gobi Desert, and was also found lying alongside a skull of Protoceratops.
The most amazing find in Mongolia may be the discovery of the skeletons of the small theropod V. mongoliensis with its right arm clamped firmly in the beak of the small sheep-sized ceratopsian Protoceratops andrewsi (GIN 100/25). Both were fighting when a sand dune collapsed, killing the two dinosaurs and preserving them in their death pose until 1971, when they were unearthed by a Polish-Mongolian team.
The foot claw of the Velociraptor has been embedded into the neck of the Protoceratops, while the right arm of the Velociraptor has been bit and broken by the Protoceratops. This suggests they were either fighting or had fatally injured each other, before being buried.
It is considered a national treasure of Mongolia.
Velociraptor was a carnivore who probably ate anything it could capture, since its size was no larger than a turkey, the most likely prey were small mammals and dinosaurs.
Some of the Velociraptor skeletal remains have been found in close proximity of each other, which led scientists to believe that Velociraptor probably hunted in packs; however, they have also been interpreted as being congregations similar to scavenging komodo dragons, or nesting birds. They used their front claws to capture and hold their prey while they ate.
Since the Fighting Dinosaurs specimen was found with a Protoceratops, it probably ate this small ceratopsian, but it may have hunted even larger prey. Its diet also included small animals, such as lizards.
Birth and Offspring
We have no clear evidence that Velociraptor hatched from eggs. According to paleontologist David Burnie, it's quite possible that Velociraptor gave birth to live young. The female pelvis is very wide, which may be evidence for this theory. Despite this, fossilized skulls of Velociraptor young were recently found. Looking at them, we determined
young Velociraptors had proportionally shorter snouts and bigger eyes than the adults, what's very usual for avian animals, such as Velociraptor. This indicates that the babies were fed and looked after by the adults for some period after hatching. However, some modern reptiles like turtles also have these skewed proportions, so they could equally be related to simply sense and ecology, with large eyes favoring nocturnal vision. Based on other Deinonychosaurs, Velociraptor was probably precocial, meaning that, even if it had parental care, it was capable of moving around and finding it's own food very on t's lifetime.
Velociraptor had a fairly large brain, compared to other dinosaur species, which made them fairly intelligent compared to other non-avian theropods. However, their intelligence was still not above that of modern "basal" birds like ostriches and geese.
The study of dinosaur skulls demonstrates that the Velociraptor had excellent hearing and binocular vision. All dinosaurs have a notch in their skull and middle ear bones where the tight ear drum stretched. Crocodiles and birds, both of which are related to the dinosaurs, have a keen sense of hearing, so it is not surprising that dinosaurs also had an acute sense of hearing. Nerve endings around the outside of the Velociraptor’s skull and the large olfactory lobes, suggests that the dinosaur's snout was highly sensitive to touch and smells. The Velociraptor like other predators had binocular vision, which allows them to see with good depth perception.
Velociraptor in pop culture vs the actual Velociraptor
Velociraptor was a member of the Velociraptorinae subfamily, and grew no larger then 2.07m long. Unlike its film counterpart portrayed in the movie 'Jurassic Park'.
The Velociraptor in 'Jurassic Park' is much larger than the fossil record would indicate (standing 8–10 feet/2.43-3.048 meters tall and 4.25–6 meters long). It loosely resembles an outdated depiction of Deinonychus, a North American Dromaeosaurid in the eudromaeosauria subfamily, more than it does Velociraptor.
This was due to the animal being based upon a Deinonychus, because Dinonychus remains had been attributed to the now dubious "Velociraptor antirrhopus", which would later erect the name "Deinonychus". The so-called 'raptor' in the movie is more similar to a Utahraptor or Deinonychus in size. Velociraptor was roughly the size of a turkey.
The Dromaeosaurids in the 'Jurassic Park' series also lack feathers and are bigger; instead of feathers, they are given squamas on their backs. The reason for the differences may be the result of genetic splicing errors and the utilization of amphibian DNA to fill in the genetic code sequence gaps, as well as the fact that it was not widely known that non-avian dinosaurs had feathers at the time of the original films making.
In the Media
Velociraptor is common in films and documentaries due to its infamy in the Jurassic Park series.
It is featured in all of the Jurassic Park movies, Especially the fourth and fifth, where they are known not to attack people and are trained to “protect” people, and are named Blue, Delta, Echo & Charlie, by their trainer, Owen Grady, with Blue as the only survivor,
and makes an appearance in the Walking With Dinosaurs Special: The Giant Claw.
It also appeared in Dinosaur Revolution where a pair hunt an orphaned baby Protoceratops, along with an old solitary bull Protoceratops,
and Dinosaur Planet, as the main character, a female named White Tip.
It is one of the dinosaurs featured in Jerry Pallotta's book "Who Would Win? Tyrannosaurus Rex vs. Velociraptor".
It also appears in Zoo Tycoon and Zoo Tycoon 2. It appears in the game Parkasaurus.
Four Velociraptors also appear in Scooby-Doo: Legend of the Phantosaur, and were just some students in costumes.
1 .General Description credits to RomTech Computer CD Rom Dinosaur Discovery
2. Birth and Offspring - Concise Dinosaur Encyclopedia (David Burnie) http://www.amazon.com/Concise-Dinosaur-Encyclopedia-The/dp/0753457547