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Velociraptors were a kind of dinosaur that lived during the late Cretaceous Period from about 75 to 71 million years ago. Its name means “swift thief,” an appropriate name for this quick, agile, and meat-eating predatory dinosaur. Its shorter front legs were perfect for seizing its prey in a deadly attack.

Raptors are classified as part of the family called dromaeosaurids. All dromaeosaurids were theropods: “three-toed,” two-legged (bipedal) walkers. Like a modern-day turkey, these dinosaurs had wishbones in their skeletal system. They often had feathers and, while their bones had air pockets, they probably did not fly.

Velociraptor Body Structure
From nose to tail tip, Velociraptors measured about 6 feet long and weighed in around 30 pounds. To put this in perspective, this is about the size of a very large turkey. They were not big dinosaurs, but based on the structure of their teeth and claws, they probably were pretty ferocious.

Sticking out on the inner side of each hind foot was a single large claw about 2.5 inches long. This claw was held up off the ground and instead of using it for walking, was probably a deadly weapon against their prey.

Raptors did not walk on its short forelegs, somewhat like the T-rex. These legs had a large manus or hand with three curved “fingers” ending in large claws. Their bodies were balanced in walking and running by the long stiff tail.

velociraptor tooth

Velociraptor’s skull was long and thin from top to bottom, ending with an upturned snout. The jaws had about 26 teeth on each side. Raptor teeth are serrated on both edges.

Raptors lived in dry sandy desert environments. In fact, it appears that some of the best fossilized velociraptors met their death in huge sandstorms that overcame them, even in the middle of violent attacks on their prey.

Peter Kaisen of the American Museum of Natural History discovered the first velociraptor in the Gobi Desert of Mongolia on August 11, 1923. During the Cold War American paleontologists were not allowed into communist Mongolia, but several more Specimens were found by Soviet and Polish scientists in collaboration with Mongolian scientists. The most famous of these is called the Fighting Dinosaurs. It is a velociraptor locked in mortal combat with a protoceratops.

Velociraptors were popularized by the Jurassic Park movies, though Hollywood took some liberties with its anatomy. They were much smaller than they were depicted in the movie. They measured about 6 feet long from nose to tail tip and weighed in at about 30 pounds. Also, they were feathered dinosaurs and the movie version were scaly-skinned.

Learn more about velociraptor

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