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The Velociraptor, also known as simply the “Raptor” roamed the Earth around 75 to 71 million years ago. Contrary to popular belief following the film “Jurassic Park” the Velociraptor did not exist during the Jurassic period – in fact the Velociraptor did not make its first appearance until the late Cretaceous period millions of years later. The Velociraptor was a small dromaeosaurid that stood at about the same size as a turkey and yet it managed to leave a lasting impression both on paleontologists and dinosaur lovers alike!
The Velociraptor: A Feathered, Bipedal Carnivore
The Velociraptor stood at approximately 1.6 feet high and 6.8 feet long and unbeknownst to many this bipedal carnivore actually had feathers. The Velociraptor also had a particularly long tail which was stiff and held out to the back of the dinosaur which was thought to assist in providing balance to the small carnivore when it turned to chase prey. One of the most unique features about the Velociraptor as far as paleontologists are concerned is that of its skull shape.
Built To Kill
The Velociraptor had an elongated skull which curved upwards, being concave on the upside and convex on the downside. It is also known from fossil specimens that the Velociraptor had approximately twenty eight teeth which were spaced widely. The teeth of the Velociraptor were serrated along the back to hold and tear meat from their prey. The Velociraptor is also known to have had an S-shaped neck and long thing legs. The Velociraptor had long arms which featured three-fingered claws on their hands.
The Velociraptor’s Large, Sharp Claw
The most commonly over dramatized feature of the Velociraptor is the large sickle shaped second “toe” on the feet. The Velociraptor has four digits on each of its feet although the second digit is the one which gains all the attention from Velociraptor lovers. If one were to go from dramatic adaptations of the Velociraptor such as the dinosaur found in “Jurassic Park” it would be easy to assume this small carnivore as the size of a tall man and wielding a scythe as a second digit.
Hollywood Vs. Reality
Hollywood interpretations of this dinosaur’s lethal digit, however, are overly dramatized and in truth the Velociraptor stood no taller than a turkey and its second digit was around two and a half inches in length. That is not to underestimate the damage that could be inflicted by such a large sharp claw. The two and a half inch digit was indeed sickle shaped and was held above the ground as the small carnivore walked using its third and fourth digits only. The incredibly sharp second digit for which the Velociraptor is most well known was most certainly used to slice open prey, terminate life by puncturing vital organs and perhaps even kill struggling prey by evisceration.
The large sickle-shaped toes for which the Velociraptor are most well known for are thought by some paleontologists to have actually helped the Velociraptor in climbing trees so that they could drop down from great heights on to the back of larger prey and puncture skin with the second digit. This fact is questioned by many other paleontologists, however, who contend that due to the size and body shape of the Velociraptor it would be nearly impossible for them to climb trees. Additionally paleontologists refer to similar dinosaur species that have similar claw shapes who would have found climbing trees an absolutely impossible task.
By comparing similar dinosaur features paleontologists are often able to dismiss theories brought about by other paleontologists, this is just one such example. Similar to the algebraic transient property, if the Velociraptor had a curved claw and the Achillobator had a curved claw and the Achillobator found it impossible to climb with said claw, it is of high probability that the Velociraptor would also have had trouble climbing.
Velociraptor: An Intelligent Dinosaur
As a member of the Dromaeosaurid family the Velociraptor carried many of the same traits as the Deinonychus and Achillobator and in reference to the large sickle-shaped claw it also resembled dinosaurs of the Troodontid family. When comparing the Velociraptor to other dinosaurs it is also important to distinguish areas where the Velociraptor stood out from the pack, one such area is in intelligence. While the intelligence of dinosaurs is measured using the brain size – body weight formula leaving most dinosaurs with significantly low intelligence, the Velociraptor does come out ahead of other, smaller brained dinosaurs.
Intelligent As An Ostrich
To say the Velociraptor was intelligent in dinosaur terms would be completely accurate; however, to put dinosaur intelligence in to perspective this incredibly intelligent dinosaur possessed the intelligence of an ostrich. The fact to remember when looking at the intelligence of creatures such as the Velociraptor, however, is that an animal need only be as intelligent as needed to thrive and survive in its current environment. If the Velociraptor thrives with its ostrich sized intelligence there really is no need for it to expand beyond that.
Hunting In Packs
While the Velociraptor did not possess the incredible intelligence of apes of today they did understand how to provide food and did so by teaming in packs to hunt and kill. The idea that Velociraptor hunted and killed in packs comes from the discovery of many Velociraptor remains in one location. Also lending to the theory that the Velociraptor hunted with a pack mentality is the fact that other closely related dinosaurs, like the Deinonychus and Dromeosaurus also hunted as packs.
Due to the size of Velociraptor it is believed by paleontologists that this carnivore fed on smaller herbivorous dinosaurs that it could easily hold down using its sickle-shaped claw. Taking in to consideration, however, that the Velociraptor hunted as a pack animal it is entirely possible that this terrifying hunter made prey of animals much larger than themselves as well.
Velociraptor Preys On Dinosaurs Larger Than Itself
One dinosaur known for certain that was made in to a meal by the Velociraptor was the Protoceratops. The Protoceratops was around the size of a pig and is known for certain as prey of the Velociraptor by fossilized remains of a Velociraptor and Protoceratops fighting together. This particular fossil is of importance to the scientific community because of the positioning of the two specimens. The Velociraptor is lying underneath the Protoceratops and has the sickle-shaped claw in the throat of the Protoceratops. The Protoceratops has its beak wrapped around the right “arm” of the Velociraptor. By using this specimen paleontologists now suggest that the Velociraptor used its sickle-shaped claw to pierce vital organs rather than simply slash at its prey.
Velociraptor Is A Swift, Agile, And Gifted Hunter
Velociraptor Is Super Fast, Running At 40mph+!!
The Velociraptor is believed to have been able to run at speeds of approximately 40mph due to its slender legs, bipedal locomotion and considerably light weight (the Velociraptor weighed in at around fifteen to thirty pounds.) Moving at such fast speeds was useful for hunting prey and made possible by the long stiff tail which provided the dinosaur balance. It is known that the tail of the Velociraptor was particularly stiff due to the presence of ossified tendons underneath the tail as well as bony protrusions on the vertebrae on the top of the tail. These two aspects would make it difficult for the tail to flex extensively. It is believed, however, that there was a slight sideways flexibility to the Velociraptor tail indicating that it was particularly useful in maintaining balance.
Velociraptor Translates As “Swift Thief”
As a hunter the Velociraptor was a fast and sneaky thief, which is perhaps why the name Velociraptor translates as “swift thief.” When hunting the Velociraptor pack would isolate one animal from its herd and circle around it. They would then use their sickle-shaped digit to eviscerate or terminate the life of their prey. The Velociraptor also seem to have had enough intelligence to know where to find their prey as paleontologists believe that they lay in wait by streams of water to pounce on smaller animals that came to drink. This theory is backed up by the fact that numerous skeletal remains have been located next to streams of water and the fact that this is a common practice for some predators in the modern world.
The Velociraptor Sees In 3D
The Velociraptor had very specific senses which enable its swift thief mode of hunting to be profitable. The skull of the Velociraptor shows evidence of nerve endings around the outside of the skull that indicate that the Velociraptor had a particularly keen sense of smell. The Velociraptor also shows signs of having exceptionally acute hearing which would have aided in locating prey as well as hearing other Velociraptor calls when hunting with the pack. Lastly the Velociraptor possessed binocular sight. Binocular sight allows a predator to see prey in three dimensions making hunting and capturing prey a much easier feat than if they only possessed two dimensional vision.
Where Did Velociraptor Live?
The Velociraptor is an Asian dinosaur and lived on hot sandy dunes. Velociraptor specimens have been located throughout Russia, China and Mongolia. Unlike some other early discoveries the Velociraptor was not named until 1924 by Henry Osborn, it was discovered in the Gobi Desert in 1922 on an American Museum of Natural History exhibition. The first discovery of the Velociraptor was a crushed skull; however, it was a complete skull and matched a second digit claw which was also found with the skull.
How Many Raptor Fossils Have Been Found? And Where Were They Found?
During the Cold War Russian and Polish scientists continued to search Mongolia for further fossils and managed to recover other Velociraptor specimens as well. In 1971 the most famous Velociraptor specimen was located by a Polish-Mongolian team. This famous Velociraptor fossil depicts a solitary Velociraptor locked in battle with a single Protoceratops, although due to the fact that this fossil was located in Mongolia it is considered their national treasure and remains in their possession. Further Velociraptor specimens were discovered in the late 1980’s by a Chinese-Canadian team in the north of China. Another fairly amazing discover as far as Velociraptor specimens go was the discovery of two hatchling Velociraptor skulls which were found close to an Oviraptorid nest in Mongolia. These samples are particularly important since it is often unusual to find juvenile dinosaur remains. In total approximately one dozen Velociraptor fossils have been located to date.
Was The Velociraptor Warm-Blooded?
Judging from the proximity of other fossils located near to Velociraptor specimens it is thought that the Velociraptor shared its ecosystem with the Udanoceratops and Pinacosaurus as well as a variety of other Dromaeosaurids, Toodontids, Alvarezsaurids and Oviraptorids. Unlike some of the other dinosaurs of its time, however, the Velociraptor had a feathered coat which suggests that it slighted towards being more warm-blooded than other dinosaurs of its time. Another factor which supports the theory that the Velociraptor was at least partially warm-blooded is the fact that they were such swift hunters. Expending so much energy to hunt suggests that the Velociraptor was partially warm-blooded and used its coat of feathers for insulation.
Was Velociraptor A Feathered Dinosaur?
The belief that the Velociraptor actually bore feathers sparked from the discovery of a Velociraptor fossil in 2007 in Mongolia which had quill knobs on the arms. Quill knobs can be found on birds and are used as an anchor for feathers; consequently this suggested that the Velociraptor had feathers. Some paleontologists even go so far as to suggest that the Velociraptor had wings as well as feathers and were even capable of flight!
The True Nature Of The Velociraptor
Unfortunately for the Velociraptor modern day interpretations of these crafty bipedal carnivores have significantly distorted the original perception of it. While Hollywood has created a much larger Velociraptor with a sickle-shaped digit that rivals a scythe, it has somewhat taken away from the true terror that these pack hunting dinosaurs could really bring. It seems ironic to suggest that a supersized Hollywood version of the Velociraptor could take anything from the smaller, turkey sized, Velociraptor but when comparing the man sized dramatization to the actual turkey sized Velociraptor there is an instant shrinking of fear. There is no doubt that were the Velociraptor roaming the Earth today it would strike fear in to the hearts of even those Hollywood producers but since the Velociraptor is long gone there seems no retribution for diminishing this bipedal carnivores stature, ability to hunt or intelligence. Much as it is offensive to “fluff up a resume,” it is detrimental both to the understanding of such a vicious hunter as well as deterring to amateur paleontologists to learn of the actual size and physiology of the much smaller Velociraptor.
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