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Creature Feature #6

Velociraptor mongoliensis

Image by Midiaou Diallo from Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 3.0 Unported

No, not that one. That is a naked Utahraptor, or perhaps Deinonychus. Velociraptor is its much smaller and frankly more boring version. There are two known species of this angry turkey: V. mongoliensis and V. osmolskae. Because of all that dratted misinformation going around thanks to the Jurassic Park/Wold franchise (don't get me wrong, I love the series and it's awesome), I decided it's about time to clear up those myths about everyone's favorite raptor.

MYTH #1: Velociraptor was a man-eater.

No. Just no. Velociraptor is so small it couldn't even reach up to sniff a man's naughty bits, being about the size of a large turkey. Its raised head would barely reach the shoulder of a small wolf or large dog. While it is capable of single-handedly taking down prey its own size or smaller, a loner would most likely have second thoughts about hunting a human. Its sickle claw probably wasn't even for killing but merely for pinning down large prey. Only a pack would be able to subdue a man - although a loner still could cause considerable damage.

In short, I can more easily envision a roasted Velociraptor on a man's Thanksgiving table and not the other way around.

MYTH #2: Velociraptor hunted in packs.

No evidence so far suggests Velociraptor was a pack hunter. This conclusion came from several finds of Deinonychus individuals aggregated together, sometimes around large prey, and a series of tracks of about six animals. This evidence of pack-hunting was generalized to all dromaeosaurids, but all Velociraptor specimens to date have been found alone (or with other species). Plus, analysis of the teeth of adults and young ones indicate they ate different, and therefore likely hunted different.

Credit: ABelov2014, Wikimedia Commons, CC-BY 3.0.

MYTH #3: Velociraptor was highly intelligent.

Jurassic World's Velociraptors know things. Blue is at least as intelligent as a dog, maybe even a chimpanzee. The real deal, though? Bird-brain. Literally. Estimates show that the true Velociraptor was little smarter than a chicken.

MYTH #4: Velociraptor was naked.

Nope. If you want Velociraptor for dinner, you're going to have to pluck off the feathers first. One fossil was found with bony bumps on its forearms, indicating the presence of feathers. And another skeleton of Zhenyuanglong, a close relative of Velociraptor, was found with feathers all over it. So chances are, Velociraptor was a fluffy boy (OK, maybe not too fluffy).


Not Velociraptor.

MYTH #5: Velociraptor had a flexible tail.

Velociraptor fossils show that the animal had fused bones in the tail, suggesting that it kept its tail more or less straight and rigid. This tight pose helped it balance as it ran, jumped, and pursued its prey.

MYTH #5: You can have a Velociraptor for a pet, just like Owen Grady.

No. Just - no.

Image credits:

Durbed, Wikimedia Commons, CC-BY-SA 3.0. (Edited.)

Matt Martyniuk, Wikimedia Commons, CC-BY 2.5. (Edited.)

Fred Wierum, Wikimedia Commons, CC-BY-SA 4.0. (Edited.)

Entelognathus, Wikimedia Commons, CC-BY-SA 4.0. (Edited.)

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