Thursday, August 11, 2011

Velociraptors Weren’t So Scary

Next to Tyrannosaurus Rex, probably no other dinosaur is as recognizable as the velociraptor. In the 1990 book and subsequent film Jurassic Park the raptors truly were the stars.
Depicted as six foot tall pack hunting lizards with razor sharp teeth and claws, the velociraptors of the movie were about as scary as dinosaurs get. The only problem is that real-life velociraptors didn’t look or act anything like that.
Illustration by Matt Martyniuk
Above is an illustration of what paleontologists believe the velociraptor really looked like. Quill knobs found in fossils prove that it was completely covered in feathers, and the long stiffened tail was likely used for balance. However, feathers or not, the biggest inaccuracy in the film and book was the velociraptor’s size, as in real life it only stood about two feet tall and weighed 30lbs.
Illustration by Matt Martyniuk
However, you can’t totally place the blame on author Michael Crichton. The raptors of the book and movie were based more upon deinonychus, a much larger ancestor of the velociraptor that lived 40 million years earlier and was over 11 feet long. At the time of the book’s writing, some paleontologists believed that the two were more closely related than they actually are.

Of course, the book and movie were both works of fiction and would have been much less entertaining if the main antagonists resembled a pack of angry roadrunners. Besides, as far as we know T-Rex was still pretty scary!

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