|Name Meaning:||Swift Theif|
|Time Period:||Late Cretaceous, 75 Ma|
|Length:||7 ft (2 m)|
|Height:||9 ft (2.7 m)|
|Weight:||33 lb (15 kg)|
The Velociraptor is best known as a dinosaur killer. It received its fame from the acclaimed book Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton later adapted to film by Stephen Spielberg. It was originally discovered in 1922 in the Gobi Desert, Mongolia. This specimen contained a partially crushed skull and claw fragments, which were named two years later by Henry Fairfield Osborn. The most famous find, commonly known as the 'Fighting Dinosaurs' was discovered in 1971 by a Polish-Mongolian team of paleontologists. This find depicted the Velociraptor locked in combat with a Protoceratops. It was considered a national treasure in Mongolia and was later donated in the year 2000 to the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. Since that find, many discoveries have been made in Mongolia and also in China.
In the film Jurassic Park several changes were made to the dinosaur's appearance. In reality the Velociraptor was much smaller than the film, a little larger than a turkey, and no longer than two meters. Evidence of feathers has been discovered on recent specimens. It had a long skull, with the snout turning upward, and more than 25 teeth widely spaced on both sides of its mouth. It was bipedal with a long extended tail. The tail had ossified tendons that eventually turned to bone making the tail very stiff so it could only move horizontally. Each hand boasted three long curved claws, and had a skeletal structure very similar to modern birds.
The Velociraptor was a combative dinosaur that attacked its prey with its sharp teeth and long claws. The 'Fighting Dinosaurs' specimen was found with the Velociraptor, underneath its prey, one claw buried in the Protoceratops' neck and the Protoceratops biting down on the Velociraptor. This suggests that the Velociraptor used its claws to slash and cut vital organs or areas of the body like the neck. These 'Fighting Dinosaurs' were most likely covered by sand very quickly when they died, thus the epic duel was preserved. The remains of its close relative, the Deinonychus, have been found in groups, which is the only evidence that the Velociraptor or others of its kind may have hunted in packs. The Velociraptor was probably warm blooded due to the energy it would have needed to hunt and the extreme similarity to modern birds. Its tail would have given it good balance allowing it to run fast as a way of taking down its prey. It most likely did so in dry, harsh environments.
ScienceViews Writer: Jason Hamilton.
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