Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Velociraptor

In 1993, a film called Jurassic Park was released that thrust the Velociraptor into the forefront of our collective Dinosaur fascination. Unfortunately... its depiction was pretty darn wrong. Granted, that wasn't wholly the fault of the movie-makers, because one of the primary physical characteristics of the Velociraptor wasn't even discovered until several years after the film's release. But the other major discrepancy... yeah, that one is probably on them.

Image by Christopher Srnka
There are two species of Velociraptor, and both lived in what is now Central Asia. In 1998, a forelimb from one specimen was found that contained some interesting features. There are marks in the bone known as quill knobs. This revelation points to the fact that Velociraptors definitely had feathers. Velociraptors could not fly, but they probably used their feathers for maneuverability, display, and for temperature control. And guess what? They were probably warm blooded.

The other physical trait that the movie got wrong? The size. You see, Velociraptors probably weighed no more than 30lbs, and had a height of about 3 feet. They did at least have those large, terrifying claws, which they used to attack and kill their prey, and one of their favorite meals was the Protoceratops. Velociraptors lived during the late Cretaceous period.

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