Science

When is a Velociraptor not a Velociraptor?

Anyone who has spent time with me long enough for the topic of dinosaurs and Jurassic Park to come up knows that there is something about the movie which irks me, it comes in the form of large pack hunting disembowelling “Velociraptor”. These creatures are not in fact Velociraptor, they are from what I know the Utahraptor, which was deemed not a scary and ferocious enough name for the movie. This would be good and well if people didn’t so readily believe it and spread it as a fact, so I’d like to share a little information on the real Velociraptor.

The Velociraptor (meaning ‘swift seizer’) was a rather smaller creature than the Utahraptor, similar in size to a mid-sized dog, 3’ tall, 5’ from nose to tip of its tail. Living in the late cretaceous, 99-65 million years ago, at a time when such beasts as the infamous Tyrannosaurus Rex roamed the Earth. Thanks to more recent finds in Mongolia and China we also know that they, as well as Utahraptor, were in fact feathered dinosaurs. The Velociraptor also did indeed have a sharp and vicious curved claw like that described in the movie, but was it for disembowelling? Phil Manning at the University of Manchester, UK, produced a mechanical version of the claw to find out how it would work, to his surprise the claw did not slash through its target, instead it was found to puncture the flesh. They determined that instead of slashing with its claws it would use them to cling onto their prey while they repeatedly slashed at it with their razor sharp teeth until it bled to death from many severe wounds. It is also suspected that the Velociraptor may use these claws in climbing, from where they would pounce down on prey from, similar to their relative the Microraptor.

The image shows a comparison of sizes of several dromosaurs in relation to a human, and handily shows the Utahraptor and the Velociraptor for emphasis.

So, when is a Velociraptor not a Velociraptor? Well it seems it’s when Utahraptor just doesn’t sound scary enough.

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