Velociraptor

The velociraptor, made famous through Jurassic Park, was bipedal, carnivorous dinosaur that lived during the Cretaceous period. Velociraptors belonged to a group of dinosaurs called dromaeosaurids., usually small to medium size theropods. You can see how big a velociraptor is relative to a human being below.

File:Vraptor-scale.png

By Matt Martyniuk (English: self-made  Nederlands: zelf gemaakt) [CC BY 2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons

Diet/Mode of Life

There is evidence that there was a predatory-prey relationship between velociraptors and protoceratops, an ornithscian dinosaur. However, instead of a velociraptor preying on protoceratops, it may have been a chance encounter between these two species that escalated into combat. The claw of the velociraptor was found in the throat region of the protoceratops, while the arm of the velociraptor was found in the jaws of the protoceratops. Hence, it may have been more of a fight, rather than the protoceratops becoming the meal of the velociraptor. The velociraptor may have not even been the predator here, given the uncertainty of fossil records. The velociraptor could have merely been scavenging an already weak protoceratops. Another study found a bone of a pterosaur in the rib cage of a velociraptor and determined it to exhibit scavenging behavior due to the size of the bone. Given the amount of time, the fossils had been at the fossil site, there is no certainty what exactly happened at the site of this encounter. However, the romanticized version of velociraptor as a cold-blooded killer is misinformed as the velociraptor was probably more of a scavenger.

The talons of the velociraptor do look very sharp, but it probably didn’t use its talons to slice upon its victim. However, animals today with similar claws don’t use them to slice and disembowel its prey. Instead, its talons may have been used to pin its prey down and use its beak to eat and kill the prey as depicted in the image below.

Velociraptor_restraining_an_oviraptorosaur_by_durbed

By Durbed [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Feathers and the Link Between Velociraptor and Birds

Interestingly, there is direct evidence that there were feathers on the posterior arm of velociraptors. They were probably not to keep the velociraptors warm and definitely not used to fly, but they may have been used for display, shielding nests, or making it easier to run. The discovery of quill knobs confirms the hypothesis that velociraptors were feathered and solidifies even more that birds are the descendants of dinosaurs. Hence, velociraptors have been thought to be ancestors of birds. This notion is further purported by research that shows that the pubis of a velociraptor is similar to Archaeopteryx, another feathered dinosaur that is thought to be another ancestor of birds. In addition, the pectoral girdle of the velociraptor has characteristics shared with Archaeopteryx.

Mythbuster: Velociraptors in Jurassic Park Were Based on Dinonychus

A Yale professor, John Ostrom, was consulted by both Michael Crichton, the author of Jurassic Park, and Steven Spielberg, the producer of Jurassic Park, and it turns out that the velociraptors in the film were based on dinonychus, a close relative to the velociraptor. Crichton decided to use velociraptor because it sounded more dramatic. The “velociraptor” that you see in the movie is completely based off of what was researched and learned of about dinonychus.

Works Cited
Cummings, Mike. “Yale’s Legacy in ‘Jurassic World’.” Yale News. N.p., 18 June 2015. Web. 5 Feb. 2016.
Fowler, Denver W., Elizabeth A. Freedman, John B. Scannella, and Robert E. Kambic. “The Predatory Ecology of Deinonychus and the Origin of Flapping in Birds.” PLoS ONE 6.12 (2011): n. pag. Web.
Hone, David, Jonah Choiniere, Corwin Sullivan, Xing Xu, Michael Pittman, and Qingwei Tan. “New Evidence for a Trophic Relationship between the Dinosaurs Velociraptor and Protoceratops.” Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 291.3-4 (2010): 488-92. Web.
Hone, David, Takanobu Tsuihiji, Mahito Watabe, and Khishigjaw Tsogtbaatr. “Pterosaurs as a Food Source for Small Dromaeosaurs.” Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 331-332 (2012): 27-30. Web.
Norrell, Mark A., and Peter J. Makovicky. “Important Features of the Dromaeosaurid Skeleton II: Information from Newly Collected Specimens of Velociraptor Mongoliensis.” AMERICAN MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY (1999): n. pag. Web. 5 Feb. 2016.
Turner, A. H., P. J. Makovicky, and M. A. Norell. “Feather Quill Knobs in the Dinosaur Velociraptor.” Science 317.5845 (2007): 1721. Web.