Much smaller than Tyrannosaurus, Velociraptor was nevertheless one of the most vicious killers that roamed the dinosaur world.
Perhaps the best-known of the dromaeosaurids, Velociraptor is known from several specimens, the first found by the American Museum of Natural History expedition to Mongolia in the 1920s. Found in 1971, a famous fossil consisted of a complete Velociraptor skeleton wrapped around that of a Protoceratops. The two had been preserved in the middle of a fight, possibly engulfed in a sandstorm.
Velociraptor was a feared predator and could run very fast on its long hind legs. It chased through the Cretaceous forests after small mammals or small herbivorous dinosaurs which it killed and then consumed.
Name: Velociraptor, meaning ‘fast hunter’
Size: about 2m long and 1m high
Food: meat, especially other dinosaurs
Lived: about 90 million years ago during the Cretaceous Period in Mongolia
The 80 very sharp curved teeth in a long snout, flattened from side to side, the three-fingered hands, each finger equipped with eagle-like talons, and the curved killing claw, 9cm long, on the second toe of each foot, show this to have been a ferocious hunter. Its long, stiff tail functioned as a balance while running and making sharp turns. A covering of feathers would help to keep the animal insulated, a necessity for its active, warm-blooded lifestyle.
Creatures that it pursued were terrified of it and stood little chance of escape. Velociraptor stood on one back leg, attacked with the other. The long, sharp claw on each foot faced inwards and was used to stab and slash at its helpless prey.
Before the discovery of Velociraptor in Mongolia in 1924, scientists had thought of dinosaurs as slow and stupid creatures. But Velociraptor was built for speed. It was also perhaps one of the most intelligent of all dinosaurs.
In September 2007, researchers found quill knobs on the forearm of a Velociraptor found in Mongolia. These bumps on bird wing bones show where feathers anchor, and their presence on Velociraptor indicate it definitely had feathers. However, these feathers were not used for flight. Rather, they were probably used for display, for covering their nests while brooding, or for added speed and thrust when running up inclined slopes.