The Velociraptor is surely one of the best known of the dinosaurs, it is also one of the most iconic. It was made famous thanks to the Jurassic Park franchise which made it one of the protagonist and recurring dinosaurs.
The velociraptor is one of the dinosaurs that is present in absolutely all the movies of the Jurassic Park and Jurassic World franchise. As well as in Michael Crichton's two books.
From then on, it can be found in almost all works of fiction related to dinosaurs. Movies, video games, books, and very often he is identical to the velociraptors in Jurassic Park.
The velociraptor is best known for being a super predator, actually the perfect predator, a fast, silent, intelligent, deadly, and team-working predator.
The raptor inspires fear and respect, has many fans around the world and is surrounded by many legends and myths. But what is it really like? How well do you know about the velociraptor? Is its reputation as a super predator well deserved? Was it as described in the works of fiction? That's what we're going to find out together and now!
Here are 9 facts you probably didn't know about the velociraptor.
Estimated by Alan Grant at 6ft ( 1.80 meters ) high and 9ft ( 2.80 meters) long in Jurassic Park movie it was actually much smaller. In fact, paleontological studies prove that the velociraptor measured an average of 5 to 6.5ft ( 1.50 to 2 meters ) from head to tail and was 4ft ( 1.20 meters) high, the size of a large dog! So it's a far cry from these huge lizards present in the movies. Actually, the dinosaurs that served as models for those at Jurassic Park and Jurassic World movies are probably Utahraptors or Deinonychus also belonging to the family of raptors and we will talk about later.
As for the real velociraptor, here is an idea of its size next to a human being :
As a certain little boy said so well at the beginning of Jurassic Park, before ending up traumatized by Alan Grant's presentation: "That doesn't look very scary, more like a six-foot turkey."
Even considering its size, the veloricaptors were still a fearsome little predator that would have been a lot scarier than a big turkey.
Although the term "turkey" is slightly exaggerated, there is some truth in the quote. For unlike the large reptiles in the movies, which wear a lizard skin, velociraptors were actually covered with feathers. Not enough to start flying, but enough to support Alan Grant's now famous theory in the first Jurassic Park Movie.
In recent years many dinosaur fossils of the velociraptor family have been discovered with feathers, including the now famous Archaeopteryx. These discoveries contribute to the theory that modern birds are actually theropods.
By comparing the ulna of velociraptor fossils with those of the turkey buzzard, researchers were able to identify traces of feathers on the bones of both species. So this research proves that the velociraptors had feathers. Contrary to popular belief, it was probably completely covered with feathers. However these feathers did not allow it to fly, it was more likely for the thermoregulation of the body and sexual selection, like peacocks.
The velociraptor was fast, it was able to move very fast, there's no doubt about it. But probably not as fast as they are in movies and popular culture. As a reminder, they are able to compete in speed with the motorcycle of the protagonist in Jurassic World. Let's be honest, it seems rather unlikely.
In the first Jurassic Park Movie they even announce some figures. According to the character of the hunter, Robert Muldoon, who according to John Hammond knows raptors better than anyone else, they can reach cheetah speed. Fifty, sixty miles per hours ( 80 to 100 km/h ) if they ever got out in the open.
However, According to scientific studies, the velociraptor's true speed was no more than 25mph ( 40 km/h ). An honourable score, though, but well below that of the cheetah.
According to studies conducted by English scientists the velociraptor was perhaps one of the fastest dinosaurs, the record being held by another theropod, the Compsognathus, which can run at up to 40 miles per hour.
"They were smarter than primates."
At least that's what Alan Grant seems to argue at the beginning of Jurassic Park III, confirming Muldoon's words in the first Jurassic Park film. These words are moreover verified in the films, where the velociraptors are represented "communicating" with the characters to recover their eggs in Jurassic Park III movie, then to assist them in a kind of military way in Jurassic World.
Since then, we have tended to imagine a very clever dinosaur, too smart, probably reinforcing the dangerous side of such a predator and the feeling of fear that one can feel in front of him.
Except that again, fiction far outweighs reality. According to studies, Cretaceous velociraptors were among the most intelligent dinosaurs, but they were far from competing with dolphins or chimpanzees. In terms of "intelligence", they were more like... rabbits.
That said, I would be wary of a six-foot rabbit with sharp teeth and a craving for meat.
You probably know this one if you know a bit about dinosaurs. Like most of the dinosaurs in the Jurassic Park franchise, the velociraptor actually did not live in the Jurassic period. In fact only the Stegosaurus in Jurassic Park actually lived in the Jurassic period. The vast majority of dinosaurs including the velociraptor actually lived in the Cretaceous period. The velociraptor lived at the end of the cretaceous period, between 80 and 70 million years before our era.
Yes we know, it's a bit paradoxical, but on the one hand Cretaceous Park doesn't sound as cool.
We often imagine velociraptors running across wide plains, hunting their prey at high speed. In an endless, flat environment. In reality this is far from being the only environment in which the velociraptors lived and their only habitat. It seems they often lived in dense forests, which was very common in their day. However, studies have shown that they were also present in semi-arid areas, probably in large semi-desert plains such as those currently found in the USA or Spain.
Studies by David Hone, a paleontologist at Queen Mary University of London, tend to show that velociraptors feed mainly on small mammals, small reptiles and even insects.
Far from the clichés of cinema and pop culture depicting velociraptors in a pack stalking large herbivores, cornering them before jumping on them and finally killing them after a hard fight.
Nevertheless a Polish research team has discovered the "Fighting Dinosaurs" fossils. Fossils of protoceratops and velociraptor that died in battle. The protoceratops was an ancestor of the triceratops, it was simialr to small bovidae in size. However, that doesn't prove that velociraptors were attacking protoceratops, it could have been an isolated incident.
Two dinosaurs, immortalized in the middle of a battle.
The name velociraptor was given by Henry Fairfield Osborn, the director of the museum who organized the excavations and found the first velociraptor fossils, the original name must have been Ovoraptor, but as the name had not been deposited in a scientific journal it was quite different and the dinosaur was finally named Mongolian Velociraptor after Mongolia, the country where it had been found.
The name Velociraptor comes from the combination of two Latin words, Velox meaning fast, and Raptor meaning a kind of brigand or thief. This combination of words can be translated as "swift seizer".
The velociraptor had a cousin, a theropod dinosaur from the same Dromaeosauridae family and with a lot in common, however this cousin was much bigger and more imposing. In fact it had more in common with Jurassic Park and pop culture velociraptors than the real velociraptors. And that cousin is the Deinonychus.
The dinosaur Deinonychus was an outstanding carnivorous predator. All the qualities for a predator of middle size, 10 to 13ft ( 3 to 4 meters ), are found in this dinosaur. A slender body with long, slender legs, not forgetting the front legs with three clawed toes ending in enormous claws. Its jaws were filled with long, sharp teeth, allowing it to bite into the flesh of animals such as the dinosaur Tenontosaurus. The large claw on its hind legs measured 5in ( 13 cm ). Deinonychus and its close relatives like Velociraptor walked only on the third and fourth toe. Thanks to its special muscles, the paw and toes could be folded back in a flash.
Illustration of a Deinonychus
To conclude we can say that the velociraptor was indeed a dinosaur full of surprises, it was not very big but nevertheless a Ferocious little carnivore that it was better not to have as an enemy.
Although the version of velociraptor popularized in Jurassic Park is actually closer to a Utahraptor or a Deinonychus I think we can forgive Steven Spielberg who allowed our little velociraptor to become a worldwide pop culture star.
If you are a velociraptor or dinosaur fan, don't hesitate to visit the Mesozo shop, feel free to check out our dinosaur plush collection by clicking on the image below.