Veh – lah – See – Rahp – Tor
Will the Real Velociraptor Please Step Forward?
Velociraptor burst onto the circuit of fame in 1993 with it’s debut in the famous dinosaur movie Jurassic Park. Since then, this dinosaur has stayed in the public memory and lent its name to a variety of products. The problem is, that monster that debuted was not Velociraptor. Velociraptor was different in several ways that would make the impostor in the movie unrecognizable to a real Velociraptor.
Ways that Velociraptor was different:
- Hunting in Teams
The real Velociraptor was much smaller than the one in the movie. In the movie, one of the characters says that Deinonychus was considered to be part of the group of Velociraptor. This is a different classification than most scientists accept now, but it helped explain the monster they put in the movie. Besides, the real Velociraptor would not have been nearly as dramatic, since it was quite a bit smaller. You can say the same about hunting.
Hunting in Teams
For a movie, an intelligent predator that works in teams and actively hunts the good guys is just the thing to create suspense. Unfortunately, scientists don’t really know if they hunted in teams or not. We do know that Velociraptor was a predator. There is the famous specimen that is fighting with a Protoceratops seen here. So it is a hunter. But we cannot say anything about teams.
There were several Deinonychus specimens that were found near a Tenontosaurus, and that made some scientists speculate that Deinonychus hunted in teams, because one Deinonychus might not be big enough to successfully hunt and kill the much larger Tenontosaurus. But this is not known with any certainty. There is only one real sign that points to social behaviour in dromaosaurids, and that is a trackway with the footprints of six indivuduals of a large species moving as a group. We don’t even know what species, let alone anything about hunting together. So we don’t know about the hunting behaviour of Velociraptor, but we do know more about their appearance, such as their feathers.
The monsters in Jurassic Park were classic dinosaurs in the public imagination, but the real Velociraptor had feathers. To be fair, they did not know this at the time the movie was made, so this may seem unfair. But it is important to revamp the image to a more correct one. There is lots of evidence that dromaeosaurids (and Velociraptor was one of this group) had feathers. Some fossils have feather impressions, while others show quill knobs. Quill knobs are bumps on a bone where feathers attached. Modern day birds have quill knobs. Quill knobs are considered proof that there were feathers. A Velociraptor find has been made that has quill knobs. These dinosaurs and feathers. They would have appeared much different that the monsters in the movie. Perhaps it is getting time for a re-make of the movie. The makers could also reconsider the intelligence of the beasts.
In the movie, one of the characters comments that Velociraptor was quite smart, possibly smarter than several kinds of mammals, and even some primates. This is not supported by fossil evidence. Again, it makes for a more dramatic and exciting movie, but I think a real threat would be more convincing, and so scarier than an imagined one. We don’t really know about the intelligence of Velociraptor. In fact, when biologists compare brain size to overall body size, we get inconsistent results. The simple brain to body ratio shows humans next to birds, while lions and elephants, which are fairly intelligent, are quite far away on this list. So we can’t definitely rely on these calculations. We just don’t know how smart these dinosaurs were, or if they were smart enough to hunt in social groups.
Velociraptor was quite a bit different from the portrayal in the movie Jurassic Park. The movie was fun and encouraged a resurgence of interest in the general public in dinosaurs, and science in general. So let them have fun in the movies. It certainly had a good effect, even if they took a few liberties for the purpose of drama. But it would also be fun to see a new movie come out with a feathered dinosaur antagonist chasing down and eating humans, don’t you think?