Velociraptor

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The Skull of Velociraptor (Thomas Vandenberghe, Wikimedia)

The Skull of Velociraptor (Thomas Vandenberghe, Wikimedia)

One of the stars of Jurassic Park, Velociraptor is famous name. But the real Velociraptor has very little in common with the one from the movie. It was half the size in real life and was covered in feathers.

But it was a deadly predator. In 1971 a Velociraptor was found intertwined with another dinosaur called Protoceratops and it seems that both were buried alive as the Velociraptor struggled to kill its prey.

Discovery: It was found in the 1920’s in an expedition to Mongolia. Velociraptor was named by Osborn in 1924.

Height: 1m

Length: 1.8m

Weight: 7-15kg

Where it lived: Fossils are found today in the Gobi Desert in Mongolia and China.

When it lived: Between 80-70 million years ago, in the Cretaceous.

What it ate: Whatever it could get its hands on. It was a meat-eater and there is evidence of it hunting other dinosaurs. One has even been found with a pterosaur bone in its stomach which palaeontologists believe points to scavenging.

Weapon of choice: Velociraptor was well armed. Its mouth had up to 80 sharp teeth each about 2.5cm long. It was intelligent, as smart as a dinosaur got but nowhere near as smart as an intelligent mammal.

Its weapon of choice was its 9cm long claw, one on each foot, which may have been used to cut veins of larger prey or pin down small prey. Used alongside its high speed running, Velociraptor was a deadly predator.

Weakness: Velociraptor was a killing machine but its jaw was relatively weak, and it was very small. It may have been smart and fast enough to avoid the bigger predators, but the larger plant eaters were too big for it to hunt.

Therizinosaurus cheloniformis

A giant hand belonging to Therizinosaurus. (Ghedoghedo, Wikimedia)

A giant hand belonging to Therizinosaurus. (Ghedoghedo, Wikimedia)

Therizinosaurus was one of the strangest dinosaurs known. Only fossils of its arms and legs have been found to date and those arms were weird. They were large, really large and had massive claws. Cheloniformis means “turtle form” because, when the arms were first found, scientists thought they had found a turtle.

Closely related species allow palaeontologists to suggest how Therizinosaurus looked. Most likely it had a wide body, long neck and quite a small head.

Discovery: originally found in 1948, it was named by a Russian scientist in 1954.

Height: Maybe 3m, but palaeontologists can’t be sure.

Length: It is estimated that it could be 10m.

Weight: very roughly estimated at 4500kg.

Where it lived: Mongolia

When it lived: A Cretaceous dinosaur, it lived 75-70 million years ago.

What it ate: Palaeontologists don’t know, the skull or stomach is the best place to find out but both are missing. They suspect it was vegetarian based on related species. 

Weapon of choice: Its claws are the longest known of any animal that has ever lived and could have measured 1m long (70cm long bone covered in a a sheath). These claws were deadly but they may have been used mainly for finding food.

Weakness: Not enough is known about this species to know its weakness but closely related species were slow and cumbersome.

Protoceratops

skeleton of Protoceratops, Wyoming Dinosaur Center. (Ovulator Wikimedia)

Skeleton of Protoceratops, Wyoming Dinosaur Center. (Ovulator Wikimedia)

Protoceratops was a small and common dinosaur. It is a relative of the much larger Triceratops. Like Triceratops it walked around on four legs, had a big frill, a bony extension of the head which covered the neck, and had a beak. But it didn’t have Triceratops’ Horns.

One Protoceratops fossil was found with a Velociraptor and it looked as though the two dinosaurs were fighting when they died. Protoceratops eggs have also been found.

Discovery: Protoceratops was found in and named in the 1920’s.

Height:  less than 1m

Length: up to 1.8m

Weight:  less than 180 kg

Where it lived: Protoceratops is found in the Gobi Desert of China and Mongolia.

When it lived: A Late Cretaceous Dinosaur, it lived 75-70 million years ago.

What it ate: A vegetarian dinosaur

Weapon of choice: Protoceratops had a strong bite but its best protection was in numbers, palaeontologists think this species travelled in herds.

Weakness:  A rather defenceless dinosaur, Protoceratops would have been easy prey if caught alone.

Oviraptor

The head of Oviraptor (Matt Martyniuk from wikimedia)

The head of Oviraptor (Matt Martyniuk from wikimedia)

Oviraptor means “egg-thief”. Its called this because the first fossil of Oviraptor was found with eggs. Palaeontologists thought they were Protoceratops eggs and that the Oviraptor was trying to steal them. But now palaeontologists know that the eggs actually belong to Oviraptor. These were the first ever dinosaur eggs found (not including birds) back in the 1920’s.

Oviraptor was a two legged dinosaur with a beak; it belongs to a group of dinosaurs thought to be the closest relatives to birds. Species closely related to Oviraptor had feathers and palaeontologists suspect Oviraptor had them too.

Discovery: It was found in the 1920’s.

Height: 1m

Length: 2m

Weight: 20-30kg

Where it lived: Found in Mongolia and possibly a second one in China.

When it lived:  It lived in the Late Cretaceous around 75-70 million years ago.

What it ate: What Oviraptor ate isn’t certain but palaeontologists have some theories. One suggestion is that its beak was used to break into eggs, another that its strong jaws were used to crush molluscs like clams. A lizard was found near the stomach of Oviraptor so meat may have been in its diet as well.

Weapon of choice: Its strong jaws that was used against prey. When facing a predator, it could run at high speed.

Weakness: A dinosaur on the small side, if another dinosaur could catch it then it would be an easy meal.