Velociraptor, often called ‘raptor,’ is an extinct genus of dromaeosaurid theropod dinosaur that roamed the earth around 85.8 to 70.6 million years ago – during the end of the Cretaceous Period. Velociraptors were smaller than other dromaeosaurids, but they had several similar anatomical features.
|Species||V. mongoliensis (type species)
|Size||Length – 6.8 ft; Height – 1.6 ft|
|Weight||30 to 33 pounds|
|Skull size||10 inch in length|
|Habitat||Dry desert with sand dunes|
|Range||Fossils have been found in Mongolia, China and Russia.|
|Running Speed||40 mph|
Velociraptors were bipedal, feathered dinosaurs with a long tail and sickle-shaped claw on each hindfoot. They had an S-shaped neck, and their head was 7 inches in length. They had 26-28 teeth on each side of their jaw. Unlike other dromaeosaurids, Velociraptors had low and long skull along with a narrow, long, shallow upturned snout covering around 60% of its skull length. Their tail, made up of fused and hard bones, were inflexible.
Like other dromaeosaurids, Velociraptor also had feathers. In 2007, scientists found quill knobs on the forearm of a Velociraptor fossil discovered in Mongolia. Even though quill knobs were not found in all prehistoric birds, yet their presence suggests that Velociraptor had wing feathers found in modern-day birds, with a rachis and vane formed by barbs. In spite of carrying feathers, Velociraptors could not fly or even glide. Scientists believe that their feathers were possibly used to regulate body temperature, attract mates and possibly to protect eggs.
This genus currently has two recognized species – V. mongoliensis, the type species, and V. osmolskae. Fossils of V. mongoliensis have been discovered in Mongolia; while skeleton remains of V. osmolskae have been found in Inner Mongolia and China. The geographic position of the modern-day Mongolia and the Mongolia of the late Cretaceous are same.
Velociraptors were terrestrial creatures. It is believed that they lived and hunted in packs that could have 50 to 200 individuals; however, there is no concrete evidence to back these hypotheses.
Soviet and Polish scientists’ expeditions in collaboration with their Mongolian colleagues recovered many Velociraptor specimens. Velociraptor fossil remains were found by a Chinese-Canadian team in China. One of the famous specimens is the ‘Fighting Dinosaurs’ specimen (GIN 100/25), discovered by a Polish-Mongolian team in 1971. The fossil preserves a Velociraptor interlocked presumably in combat with a Protoceratops. This specimen is considered as Mongolia’s national treasure. However, in the year 2000, it was loaned to American Museum of Natural History, New York City.
In 1924, the American Museum of Natural History president Henry Fairfield Osborn named the type species V. mongoliensis after its country of origin – Mongolia. It was discovered in the Djadochta Formation, in Ömnögovi, Mongolia.
The name Velociraptor has derived from Latin words velox (means ‘swift’) and raptor (means ‘robber’ or ‘plunderer’) suggesting the predatory nature of this animal.
- Velociraptor, like T-rex, had a ‘prominent’ role in the “Jurassic Park” films. But scientists say that its Hollywood depiction did not resemble its actual size or appearance.
- The first fossil of Velociraptor was discovered in August 1923 by Peter Kaisen, on the very first American Museum of Natural History outing in search of Velociraptor to the Outer Mongolian Gobi Desert.
- Scientists believe that Velociraptors were buried in the sand – either from a sandstorm or collapsing dune.