Velociraptor: Quick Facts
Characteristics of Velociraptor
Species: Velociraptor Mongoliensis
Discovery: 1924 (Henry Fairfield Osborn)
Regional Origins: Mongolia and Upper China Region
Measurements: Approximately the size of a large turkey; 6.8 feet long, and only 1.6 feet tall
Weight: Approximately 15 Kilograms (33 pounds)
Speed (Estimated): Disputed; Believed to have a top speed of forty miles per hour.
Lifespan: Believed to be approximately fifteen to twenty years.
Feeding Habits: Predator; Scavenger; Nocturnal; Likely fed on small reptiles, insects, and amphibians.
Period: Late Cretaceous Period (Approximately seventy-five to seventy-one million years ago)
Number of Fossils Found: Approximately a dozen specimens.
Skin/Appearance: Disputed; Believed to have had feathery appearance, along with a long tail and large, retractable claw. Skin color is currently unknown, however.
Quick Facts About Velociraptor
Quick Fact #1: Velociraptor (which means “swift seizer” in Latin), was a dromaeosaurid dinosaur that lived seventy-five to seventy-one million years ago (during the Cretaceous Period). Velociraptor was bipedal, and likely had a feathered body, similar to modern birds. Two species of Velociraptor have been discovered by archaeologists, so far, including: V. Mongoliensis and V. Osmolskae. Velociraptor was first discovered during an “American Museum of Natural History” outing to the Gobi Desert in Mongolia. Here, on 11 August 1923, Peter Kaisen discovered the first recorded fossil of Velociraptor. It wasn’t until 1924, however, that Henry Fairfield Osborn (Museum President of the American Museum of Natural History), declared the find as a new specimen; dubbing it the “Velociraptor.” The term is a play on two separate Latin words, “velox” (which means swift) and “raptor” (which means robber).
Quick Fact #2: Along with velociraptor’s long tail, the dinosaur also possessed a sickle-shaped, retractable claw on each of its feet. Scientists and archaeologists believe that this claw was used to disembowel its prey, as the dinosaur was most certainly a carnivore. At nearly 2.6 inches long, this claw was highly effective in both tearing and restraining its prey. In addition, Velociraptor also possessed two additional claws on each foot that were quite similar to the wing bones of modern-day birds.
Quick Fact #3: Despite “Jurassic Park” and its depiction of Velociraptor as a medium-sized reptile (human-height), Velociraptor was actually quite small in real life. In fact, the animal was roughly the size of a modern turkey. Fossil remains indicate that Velociraptor measure up to 6.8 feet long, and approximately 1.6 feet high, with an average body weight of thirty-three to forty-three pounds.
Quick Fact #5: In 1971, a “Fighting Dinosaurs” specimen of Velociraptor was discovered that provided direct evidence of the animal’s predatory traits, due to its stance and combat readiness alongside a Protoceratops specimen. Judging from the attack stance, scientists believe that Velociraptor was likely a scavenger, but also actively hunted animals of similar (or smaller) dimensions. Velociraptor’s sickle-claw appears to have been its most potent weapon, and was likely used by the animal to disembowel or pierce vital organs, particularly in the abdominal regions and throat. Scientists remain unsure as to whether or not Velociraptor hunted alone, or in packs. It is also unclear if Velociraptor preferred hunting in the day or night; though, more recent evidence tends to support the idea that Velociraptor may have been more nocturnal.
Fun Fact #1: Jurassic Park’s portrayal of Velociraptor is actually inaccurate, in a number of ways. Raptors in the movie were actually based on a completely different animal, known as Deinonychus. Velociraptor, in reality, was not much bigger than modern-day turkeys.
Fun Fact #2: Scientists believe that Velociraptor may have used its sharp claws as a means for climbing as well. Although evidence remains thin on this subject matter, some argue that the shape and dimensions of Velociraptor’s claws would have offered it superior climbing abilities, particularly along the bark of trees.
Fun Fact #3: Some scientists believe that Velociraptor was quite intelligent, due to its larger than average brain. However, until more fossilized remains can be uncovered (that indicate behavioral patterns), this idea remains only a hypothesis for the time being.
“Raptors did not actually resemble the reptilian monsters depicted in popular cinema, but were very large predatory ground birds, some with wings of substantial size. The ‘raptors’ did not closely resemble their carnosaurian cousins, but rather oversized Archaeopteryx.”— Matthew P. Martyniuk
Quotes About Velociraptor
Quote #1: “As I’ve said numerous times before, there is no proof that this theropod had chimpanzee-level intelligence, nor that it hunted in organized packs. It may seem obvious, but it shouldn’t be seen as a terrifying ‘killing machine,’ but simply as an interesting and opportunistic diapsid predator which was most probably a solitary ambush hunter, with a behavior and intelligence intermediate between that of crocodiles and large flightless birds.” – Andrea Cau
Quote #2: “Raptors did not actually resemble the reptilian monsters depicted in popular cinema, but were very large predatory ground birds, some with wings of substantial size. The ‘raptors’ did not closely resemble their carnosaurian cousins, but rather oversized Archaeopteryx.” -- Matthew P. Martyniuk
Quote #3: “The more that we learn about these animals the more we find that there is basically no difference between birds and their closely related dinosaur ancestors like velociraptor. Both have wishbones, brooded their nests, possess hollow bones, and were covered in feathers. If animals like velociraptor were alive today our first impression would be that they were just very unusual looking birds.” -- Mark Norell
Quote #4: “These are among my very favorite dinosaurs. Their long upcurved skulls, slender yet compact proportions, and great sickle claws make these elegant, attractive, yet demonic animals. There is nothing else like them.” -- Gregory S. Paul
Presence of Feathers
Fossil remains of Velociraptor indicate the presence of feathers, due to the abundance of quill knobs that have been found along its forearms. According to research performed by Alan Turner, Velociraptor appears to have had fourteen secondaries (wing feathers); a feature and characteristic of Velociraptor’s ancestors, as well. Scientists do not believe that Velociraptors could fly, however, due to its size. Instead, these feathers were likely used for display (mating), additional speed, and for the covering of nests. The presence of feathers (quill knobs) have proven extremely fruitful for modern-day scientists and archaeologists in their research, as the similarities between modern birds and dinosaurs, in general, appear to be on the rise.
The presence of feathers on Velociraptor are not unique. Scientists believe that other species of dinosaurs, such as Tyrannosaurus Rex, may have also possessed feathers due to the presence of quill-like marks on fossil remains. Additional research is still needed to prove this theory, however.
Were you surprised to learn that Velociraptor was no larger than a modern-day turkey?
In closing, Velociraptor remains one of the most interesting and intriguing dinosaur species known in the scientific community. As additional fossilized specimens of this fascinating creature are found by scientists and archaeologists, alike, it will be interesting to see what new forms of information can be gleaned from future findings. Velociraptor’s inherent connection to modern-day birds remains one of the most interesting aspects of this dinosaur’s characteristics, and will likely be a crucial element in understanding this early carnivore’s behavior, instincts, intelligence, and traits in future research. Only time will tell what new things can be learned, as advances in science and technology hold the key for a greater understanding of this unique and fascinating animal of years past.
News, Jeff Peterson Deseret, and Peterson Deseret News. "Things 'Jurassic Park' Got Wrong about Dinosaurs." Las Vegas Review-Journal. March 02, 2017. Accessed January 19, 2019. https://www.reviewjournal.com/entertainment/movies/things-jurassic-park-got-wrong-about-dinosaurs/.
Wikipedia contributors, "Velociraptor," Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Velociraptor&oldid=876744423 (accessed January 19, 2019).
Questions & Answers
© 2019 Larry Slawson