Velociraptors: Fact and Fiction
Eventually at some time or another, somebody has to imagine what a dinosaur looks like. Maybe it is a Paleontologist, maybe it is an Artist, maybe it is a Movie Maker. Basically, everyone is entitled to deciding in his or her mind what a dinosaur may look like. How do we form these ideas, though? And on what information are these ideas based on? The “picture” of the dinosaur – whether it’s in our mind, on paper or a motion picture film – helps us to understand how these animals behaved.
Ideas about how dinosaurs looked have changed over the years as our research improves. There’s a sort of partnership between paleontology, painting and movies: they help to define each other. The paleontologist digs up the bones, the artist paints a painting, and the filmmaker brings it to “life.” Then everyone complains about how silly the movie dinosaurs look (or do they?) and little by little, things improve.
Since movies are the venue through which most of society gains its ideas of what dinosaurs look like, it seems appropriate to address the topic of how dinosaurs are depicted on the big screen and whether or not those depictions are correct.
Some of the most popular film portrayals of dinosaurs are the Jurassic Park movies. The dinosaurs shown seem to be actually living and partaking in all of the activities shown – everything from the opening of doors, running 50 miles per hour, the elaborate hunting tactics, to tapping their toes, everything is incredibly realistic. Or is it?
According to a website known as Dino Buzz, which is an offshoot of a UC Berkeley site, many of the portrayals of the Velociraptors in Jurassic Park III were inaccurate; some ideas were partially incorrect, while others that were believed to be incorrect were proven correct during the making of the film.
A small clade of theropod dinosaurs, dromaeosaurs are more popularly known as the “raptors.” Although “raptor” is not the particular name that is favored by scientists, it will be used throughout this paper to assist in the ease of reading. Raptors were small theropods with specialized features, such as a well-developed slashing claw on their toe, a stiffened tail that probably assisted in balancing, and large “hands.” They also had claws, agile bodies and muscular, toothy jaws. Based on discoveries and their physical structures, Raptors are assumed to have been active, fierce predators, and also play key roles in the revolution of modern paleontologists’ views of dinosaurs (Dino Buzz, 2005).
The “killing claw” the Raptors possessed was an incredible structure used for just that: killing. It was normally held off the ground during running or other types of locomotion, but when the muscles of the toe were contracted, the claw was swept down fiercely. The stiffened tail was probably used to stabilize the body, while the hands and jaws of the Raptor held on to its prey for...