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Velociraptor

vel - oss - ee - RAP - tor

Theropoda/Dromaeosauridae
Ville Sinkkonen. Copyright 2006

Field Notes

Name Means: "Fast robber"
Length: 3 feet (1 m)
Diet: Carnivore (Meat-Eater)
Time: Late Cretaceous
Location: Mongolia

Velociraptor is the night-marish villain of the movie Jurassic Park. Swift, birdlike and intelligent-as presented on film, it embodies all the dynamic qualities that, until quite recently, dinosaurs were thought to lack.

Although in life Velociraptor was most likely a swift-running predator, the real animal-from the late Cretaceous of Mongolia-differs in several significant ways from its cinematic namesake. For one thing, the skull was narrower than was depicted on screen. In fact, the heads of the movie "raptors" more closely resemble that of Deinonychus. The tail, too, was different. Velociraptor was a dromaeosaurid, and dromaeosaurid tails were broomhandle-stiff, not the flexible structures that were seen in the movie.

Most important of all is the question of their size. The Velociraptor of the late Cretaceous was barely longer than 3 feet (1 m); in the movie, however, it was shown to be the size of a large adult human-and it looked all the more ferocious as a result.

It is interesting to note that while Jurassic Park was still being filmed, the remains of Utahraptor-a previously unknown dromaeosaurid, which was about the same size as those "faked" for the movie, were found in Wyoming.

As with other dromaeosaurids, Velociraptor probably used its hooked talon to kill its prey. One celebrated Velociraptor skeleton, found in Mongolia in 1971, seems to confirm this theory. Velociraptor was entangled with a Protoceratops skeleton, the Velociraptor foot claw embedded in the Protoceratops's rib cage. A sand dune must have collapsed on the two animals as they were grappling with each other, smothering both and preserving this dramatic scene of predation and disaster for millions of years.

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