Name: Velociraptor (Swift seize.r)
Named By: Henry Fairfield Osborn - 1924.
Classification: Chordata, Reptilia, Dinosauria, Saurischia Theropoda Tetanurae Coelurosauria Dromaeosauridae.
Species: V. mongoliensis, V. osmolskae.
Type: Carnivore. Size: 2 meters long.
Known locations: Mongolia, Barun Goyot Formation, Djadochta Formation.
Time period: Campanian of the Cretaceous.
Fossil representation: Many fossilised skeletons.
The overall appearance of Velociraptor was that of a lightweight bipedal hunter built for speed, unlike other known Dromaeosaurids by having an upturned snout at the front of a long, low skull. The skull was filled with small teeth, suitable for taking meat off a carcass, but not for killing. Instead of a ‘killing bite’, Velociraptor would instead utilise the enlarged sickle shaped claws that it had on the second toe of each foot. Its hands were large and suitable for grabbing onto prey. The tail had a special series of tendons that kept it stiffened and erect, providing a crucial form of balance when running and manoeuvring at speed. Examination of the scleral rings has drawn comparison with modern birds that are nocturnal, also hinting at a nocturnal lifestyle for Velociraptor.
Velociraptor is one of the dinosaurs that without question had feathers. Evidence for this comes from the quill knobs on the fossil material, particularly the forearms. These are where feathers were anchored in place, and without feathers there would be no quill knobs (although on the other hand, lack of quill knobs does not mean lack of feathers). The feathers on Velociraptor would have provided insulation allowing it to maintain a high metabolism, a vital requirement for a very agile and active hunter. Also Velociraptor lived in a fairly arid landscape and the feathers would have provided extra protection against the cold nights that are often associated with arid environments. A further idea is that the feathers may have also served a display purpose.
The claw seems to have been used in a stabbing motion as opposed to the much popularised slashing motion. While sharp at the point, it is not particularly sharp along the inner curve as you might expect for a ‘slashing’ weapon. Further, analysis of a fossil discovered in 1971 that shows a Velociraptor locked in combat with a Protoceratops, suggests that the claw was being used to stab at the neck. This is a very intelligent place to strike with a small weapon as you would have both the carotid artery and Jugular veins transporting a key blood supply between the heart and brain. All Velociraptor would have to do is stab any one, and the Protoceratops would have been dead within minutes.
Velociraptor is the best known of the dromaeosaurids with the largest number of complete skeletons recovered. Velociraptor entered popular culture in a big way in the 1993 blockbuster movie Jurassic park, as well as subsequent sequels. The Velociraptor dinosaurs in these films are actually not accurate to the fossils and are instead more closely modelled on related dinosaurs such as Deinonychus.
This is a Loan article reproduced from Prehistoric Wildlife