10 Swift Facts About Velociraptor

For more than 60 years, Velociraptor wallowed in relative obscurity. But after Jurassic Park hit theaters, this central Asian predator had a sudden and dazzling rise to superstardom. The public couldn’t get enough of it.

Unfortunately, Spielberg’s sleek, human-sized predators are Velociraptor in name only. When all’s said and done, they were—as we pointed out last weekend—based on a completely different animal called Deinonychus. Most of what people think they know about Velociraptor is wrong. So, before you check out Jurassic World, get acquainted with the real deal.

1. Velociraptor Wasn’t Much Bigger Than the Main Dish on Thanksgiving.  

Turns out, the snotty kid in the first Jurassic Park who called Velociraptora six-foot turkey” was spot-on. Its body was about the same size (including a meter-long tail) and full-grown adults probably weighed 30 to 40 pounds. Pass the gravy!

2. Those Infamous Toe Claws Weren’t Built for Slashing.


Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

As Spielberg made quite clear, dromaeosaurs (a.k.a. raptors) came with some terrifying weaponry. On each foot, there was a specialized toe with a huge, hooked claw. Both digits could be pulled backwards to an almost freakish degree. While walking around, Velociraptor and company held them high up off the ground in order to keep the claw tips sharp.

At first glance, the trademark tools look nicely designed for ripping into hapless victims. However, one 2005 experiment involving pig skins and a mechanical raptor leg debunked this idea. (Isn't science great?) British paleontologist Phillip Manning oversaw the creation of a robotic dromaeosaur foot meticulously based on the animal's proportions. He wanted to test how raptors might have wielded those dreadful claws. The results were pretty surprising. While the robo-toe sliced right through chamois leather, pig and crocodile hide proved much more challenging: it could barely puncture the swine’s skin and lamely bounced off the croc’s. “Using the claw to slash would have been like me trying to disembowel you with a plastic spoon,” Manning said.

Thanks to his research, scientists now think that dromaeosaurs instead turned their toe claws into gripping gear. After a raptor leapt onto some poor creature’s back, these things could have helped it hang on like an ancient rodeo champ long enough to bite open its prey's throat.

3. So Far, We’ve Discovered Two Species.

Velociraptor mongoliensis was named in 1924 and Velociraptor osmolskae in 2008. Both are known from China, though V. mongoliensis also roamed Mongolia.

4. There’s a Good Chance That Velociraptor Occasionally Climbed Trees.


Eighty million years ago, you might have been just as likely to get pooped on by a tree-bound dromaeosaur as maimed by one on the ground. A few paleontologists claim that Velociraptor’s toe claws could help it scale barky trunks—and bigger dinos—with relative ease. Just imagine a few of them perched on some Mesozoic branches.

5. Two Velociraptor-Like Skulls Were Found in a Different Dinosaur’s Nest.

The oviraptorids were a weird group of beaked and toothless critters that scientists often puzzle over. In the early '90s, one oviraptorid nest turned up in Mongolia, complete with a well-preserved egg. Curiously, it also included a pair of severed heads that strongly resemble baby Velociraptor—probable leftovers from the mama oviraptorid’s last meal.

6. Velociraptor Would Eat the Occasional Flying Reptile.


Long before birds came along, winged creatures called pterosaurs already soared through the skies. Airborne relatives of the dinosaurs, these beasts could reach tremendous sizes, with some species rivaling present-day giraffes in height. In 2012, scientists discovered a banged-up pterosaur bone lodged inside one Velociraptor’s ribcage. With an estimated 6- to 9-foot wingspan, this flyer was no pushover. According to paleontologist David Hone, a small dino like Velociraptor would have found attacking that kind of target “difficult and probably even dangerous.” Instead, the bone was “most likely scavenged from a carcass rather than the result of a predatory kill.”

7. Some of the Raptor Noises Used in Jurassic Park Were Tortoise Love Grunts.

While gathering animal calls at Marine World one day, the staff asked sound designer Gary Rydstrom if he wanted to record two tortoises mating. Ryndstrom seized the opportunity. “It’s somewhat embarrassing,” Rydstrom told Vulture in 2013, “but when the raptors bark at each other to communicate, it’s a tortoise having sex.” Other raptor vocalizations came from horses, geese, and a very horny dolphin.

8. Velociraptor Might Have Picked Apart Live Prey.

Perhaps dromaeosaurs also used those notorious toe claws to help pin down smaller victims and eat them alive. What a horrible way to go. As researcher Denver Fowler points out, hawks use the same brutal technique today and, just like Velociraptor, they have an especially large, curved claw on the second digit of each foot.

9. It Had Wings (But Couldn’t Fly).

Paleo-purists criticized Jurassic World director Colin Trevorrow for refusing to put feathers on his Velociraptor. Scientifically, there’s no excuse anymore. For almost two full decades, the list of fluffy dinosaurs has been steadily growing. And in 2009, Velociraptor officially joined the club. That year, some tell-tale bumps called “quill knobs” were found on the forearm of one Mongolian specimen. In many 21st-century birds, these act as anchors for strong flight feathers. We can safely assume that a dino with Velociraptor’s proportions didn’t fly—but, as this finding proved, evolution gave it wings anyway.

10. One Died in Combat With a Sheep-Sized Herbivore.


In 1971, a Polish-Mongolian fossil-hunting team stumbled upon a prehistoric brawl between a lone Velociraptor and a frilled herbivore known as Protoceratops. Fatally entangled, our raptor had managed to sink a toe claw into the plant-eater’s neck. Meanwhile, the Protoceratops got some revenge by crushing this predator’s right arm between its muscular jaws. We’ll never know who would have won; most likely, a sand dune buried these two without warning before they could finish. 

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What Would It Cost to Operate a Real Jurassic Park?
Universal Studios and Amblin Entertainment, Inc. and Legendary Pictures Productions, LLC.
Universal Studios and Amblin Entertainment, Inc. and Legendary Pictures Productions, LLC.

As the Jurassic Park franchise has demonstrated, trapping prehistoric monsters on an island with bite-sized tourists may not be the smartest idea (record-breaking box office numbers aside). On top of the safety concerns, the cost of running a Jurassic Park would raise its own set of pretty pricey issues. Energy supplier E.ON recently collaborated with physicists from Imperial College London to calculate how much energy the fictional attraction would eat up in the real world.

The infographic below borrows elements that appear in both the Jurassic Park and Jurassic World films. One of the most costly features in the park would be the aquarium for holding the massive marine reptiles. To keep the water heated and hospitable year-round, the park would need to pay an energy bill of close to $3 million a year.

Maintaining a pterosaur aviary would be an even more expensive endeavor. To come up with this cost, the researchers looked at the yearly amount of energy consumed by the Eden Project, a massive biome complex in the UK. Using that data, they concluded that a structure built to hold winged creatures bigger than any bird alive today would add up to $6.6 million a year in energy costs.

Other facilities they envisioned for the island include an egg incubator, embryo fridge, hotel, and emergency bunker. And of course, there would be electric fences running 24/7 to keep the genetic attractions separated from park guests. In total, the physicists estimated that the park would use 455 million kilowatt hours a year, or the equivalent of 30,000 average homes. That annual energy bill comes out to roughly $63 million.

Keep in mind that energy would still only make up one part of Jurassic Park's hypothetical budget—factoring in money for lawsuits would be a whole different story.

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18 Things to Look for the Next Time You Watch Jurassic Park
Universal Pictures
Universal Pictures

Twenty-five years ago, director Steven Spielberg created a movie that was 65 million years in the making. With cutting-edge CG effects and a rousing adventure story only the filmmaker behind Jaws and Raiders of the Lost Ark could conjure, Jurassic Park, based on the novel by author Michael Crichton, went on to become the highest-grossing film of all time at the time (today, it maintains the 17th position). Now, in celebration of the original film’s 25th anniversary and with the fifth installment of the dino franchise about to hit theaters, it’s time to look back to where it all began in case you missed a few things.

Here are 18 details to look out for next time you take a trip to Jurassic Park.

1. A CAMERAMAN PROTECTED JOPHERY ... AND HIS CAMERA.

A screen grab from 'Jurassic Park' (1993)
Universal Pictures

The film’s opening scene features the park game warden, Robert Muldoon, and a group of handlers attempting to transport velociraptors from a cage into their paddock, but it goes terribly wrong. Jophery, the “gatekeeper,” is thrown off the top of the cage as the alpha raptor attempts to escape.

A screen grab from 'Jurassic Park' (1993)
Universal Pictures

In the shot when Jophery falls toward the camera before being pulled into the cage and devoured by a pack of hungry dinos, the camera operator’s hand can be seen in the bottom right of the frame making sure the stuntperson doesn’t fall into the camera.

2. LIFE FINDS A WAY ... IN ALAN GRANT’S SEAT BELT.

The scene when the helicopter carrying Alan Grant (Sam Neill), Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern), Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum), and John Hammond (Richard Attenborough) descends into Jurassic Park features a clever and unorthodox bit of foreshadowing.

When the copter hits a bit of turbulence—with Hammond giving the group a spirited "Yahoo!”—the occupants scramble to click their seat belts. Grant tries to buckle up, but finds two “female” ends, making it impossible to snap in for safety. After getting some verbal help from Hammond, Grant grabs both straps and ties them together as they come in for the rough landing.

Using a bit of resourcefulness, Grant goes against the odds to find a way to make it work—just like the dinosaurs in the park are able to reproduce despite being bred as females.

3. CGI MADE THE MOVIE’S DINOSAUR SUPERVISOR “EXTINCT.”

A screen grab from 'Jurassic Park' (1993)
Universal Pictures

A bit of cheeky dialogue between Grant and Malcolm as the group makes their way into the park perfectly showcases their dueling personalities. When mulling over the implications of a park filled with living dinosaurs, the paleontologist opines, "I think we're out of a job," to which the chaotician responds, "Don't you mean extinct?"

The line is a deliberate reference to something effects pioneer Phil Tippett, who developed “go-motion” animation for the film, said to Spielberg before the director settled on primarily using groundbreaking CGI for the movie (“I think I’m extinct”). Instead of leaving the production, Tippett stayed on to serve as a consultant by helping the CG animators create realistic movements for the digital dinos.

4. JOHN HAMMOND’S JEEP GETS GREAT MILEAGE.

A screen grab from 'Jurassic Park' (1993)
Universal Pictures

Keep an eye out for the Jeeps that Hammond uses to buzz around and show off the park to his first guests. JP29 is the same truck used by the characters Gray and Zach to escape from the old section of the park in 2015’s Jurassic World.

A screen grab from 'Jurassic Park' (1993)
Universal Pictures

Grant and Ellie’s JP18 truck can also be seen in the garage in Jurassic World when Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard’s characters, Owen and Claire, try to escape from the Indominus rex.

A screen grab from 'Jurassic Park' (1993)
Universal Pictures


Universal Pictures

5. THE NEXT JURASSIC PARK WAS SUPPOSED TO BE IN EUROPE.

A screen grab from 'Jurassic Park' (1993)
Universal Pictures

When Hammond pitches the grand ideas of the park to the group in the dining room—during the bragged-about meal of Chilean sea bass—corporate-focused slides can be seen in the background that suggest Hammond anticipated Jurassic Park becoming more popular than both “sports” and "zoos."

A screen grab from 'Jurassic Park' (1993)
Universal Pictures

They also hint at Hammond’s “Future Attractions.” He was also planning to expand internationally to Jurassic Park Europe.

6. MR. DNA’S VOICE SHOULD SOUND FAMILIAR.

The animated Mr. DNA sequence impresses Grant and the gang because the little cartoon DNA strand explains exactly how dinosaurs were brought back from extinction, but animation fans should be impressed for a different reason.

The voice behind Mr. DNA is voiceover artist Greg Burson, who also provided the voices at various points for famous Looney Tunes characters like Elmer Fudd, Porky Pig, Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, and Pepe Le Pew. Burson was also one of the voiceover artists to voice Hanna-Barbera characters like Huckleberry Hound, QuickDraw McGraw, Snagglepuss and Yogi Bear.

7. THE VOICE YOU HEARD WAS, IN FACT, RICHARD KILEY.

Hammond gets to utter the famous phrase, “Welcome to Jurassic Park” after showing off the newly non-extinct creatures to Grant and Sattler, but we get to hear it again during the tour from the car’s virtual tour guide. “The voice you’re now hearing is Richard Kiley,” Hammond tells the group. “We spared no expense.”

Hammond spared no expense because Kiley, with his distinct baritone, was an esteemed actor of stage and screen who won Tony Awards for Best Actor in a Musical for Redhead in 1959 and Man of La Mancha in 1966, as well as three Emmys and two Golden Globes for his TV work.

Kiley was also mentioned as the tour guide in author Michael Crichton’s source novel, and, appropriately enough, voices the Jurassic Park Jungle River Cruise at Universal Studios in Orlando.

8. NEDRY IS A JAWS FAN.

A screen grab from 'Jurassic Park' (1993)
Universal Pictures

While Hammond berates Nedry (Wayne Knight) in the command center for the park’s problems, keep an eye on the computer programmer’s computer screen past all the garbage, Jolt Cola cans, and candy wrappers: He’s watching Spielberg’s seminal shark attack hit, Jaws.

9. NEDRY DRESSES LIKE THE GOONIES.

A screen grab from 'Jurassic Park' (1993)
Reddit

It turns out that Jaws isn’t Nedry’s only Spielberg fandom, and that concealed dinosaur embryos in a fake shaving cream can aren’t the only thing Nedry is hiding.

The programmer’s wardrobe—with his Hawaiian shirt, Members Only jacket, and yellow rain slicker—is almost exactly the same as the clothes that Chunk, Mouth, and Mikey wear in the Spielberg-produced adventure classic The Goonies.

10. NEDRY’S DESK GIVES A NOD TO THE FATHER OF THE ATOMIC BOMB.

A screen grab from 'Jurassic Park' (1993)
Universal Pictures

The photo on Nedry’s computer isn’t some stern, pipe-smoking father figure; the little mushroom cloud doodle above the photo should let you know that it’s none other than J. Robert Oppenheimer, the theoretical physicist who helped develop the atomic bomb during the Manhattan Project.

The nod carries a symbolic, cautionary tale significance: Much like Hammond, Oppenheimer also used fundamental science for his own gain. Or, as Malcolm said, "Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn't stop to think if they should."

11. THE PARK’S CUTTING-EDGE SECURITY CAMERA FOOTAGE IS JUST A QUICKTIME VIDEO.

A screen grab from 'Jurassic Park' (1993)
Universal Pictures

When Nedry calls the dock worker while watching live security footage to coordinate his escape with the dinosaur embryos, the webcam seen on the screen is actually a Quicktime video instead of a live feed. The progress bar at the bottom of the desktop window, and the mouse cursor over the “Play” button, are dead giveaways.

12. JURASSIC PARK’S SCIENTISTS ARE GREAT AT GENETICS, BUT BAD AT SPELLING.

A screen grab from 'Jurassic Park' (1993)
Universal Pictures

When Nedry breaks into the embryo chamber to steal the individual dinosaur types, two of them are spelled incorrectly. “Stegasaurus” should be Stegosaurus and “Tyranosaurus” should be Tyrannosaurus.

A screen grab from 'Jurassic Park' (1993)
Universal Pictures

They’re not so great with numbers either: The faux shaving cream canister Nedry uses to steal the dinos off the island only holds 10 embryos even though during their meeting in San Jose, Dodson told Nedry to take 15 different species.

13. TIM MAKES SOME REAL-LIFE AND FAKE BOOK RECOMMENDATIONS.

While fanboying out about getting to hang out with Dr. Alan Grant, Tim (Joseph Mazzello) presents alternate theories to Grant’s assertion that dinosaurs evolved into birds by citing a book by “a guy named Bakker.” This line refers to Robert T. Bakker, the real-life American paleontologist who helped shape the modern theory that some dinosaurs were endothermic (warm-blooded) and who served as an advisor on the film.

Tim can also be seen carrying Grant’s book, Dinosaur Detectives, a prop created for the film that supposedly features a foreword by Sir Richard Attenborough (the actor who plays Hammond), and co-written by Michael Backes, a real-life software developer who helped Crichton fact check the original novel and the guy who created the the animated computer graphics used in the movie's control room sequences.

14. OBJECTS IN THE MIRROR ARE ON THE OPPOSITE SIDE FROM WHERE THEY’RE SUPPOSED TO APPEAR.

A screen grab from 'Jurassic Park' (1993)
Universal Pictures

During Sattler and Muldoon’s daring escape with an injured Malcolm from a rampaging T. rex, the dinosaur comes so close to chomping on the driver’s side of their Jeep that the side mirror’s “objects in the mirror are closer than they appear” message can be seen. In reality, such a safety warning is only required on the opposite side because passenger mirrors are convex as a way to limit blind spots.

15. THE MERCHANDISE IN THE GIFT SHOP IS REAL.

A screen grab from 'Jurassic Park' (1993)
Universal Pictures

During the scene where Sattler and Hammond eat ice cream and debate the failure of the park, The Making of Jurassic Park book seen in the park’s fictional gift shop is a real book about the making of the movie, written by authors Don Shay and Jody Duncan.

16. THE RAPTOR IN THE KITCHEN NEEDED SOME HELP STANDING UP.

A screen grab from 'Jurassic Park' (1993)
Universal Pictures

The raptors in the movie may be smart enough to open doors, but they can’t stand on their own two feet. If you look to the back left of the raptor that opens the door to the kitchen while hunting for Lex and Tim, you can see a hand steady the raptor puppet so it doesn’t fall over. Once the scene cuts to two raptors in the kitchen those shots are largely CGI.

17. LOOK CLOSELY FOR THE DINO DNA ALL SPELLED OUT.

As Grant, Sattler, and the kids hide in the vents in the climactic velociraptor finale in the Visitor’s Center, the letters GATC can be seen reflected on the skin of one of the raptors searching for her prey. These letters represent the nucleobases that form the base pairs of DNA—a nod to the building blocks of life that created the raptors in the first place.

18. THERE’S AN INCREDIBLE DISAPPEARING RAPTOR.

Just in the nick of time in the movie’s finale, the T. rex snatches a pouncing raptor out of thin air and saves Grant and the gang. But if you look closely, a visual effects mistake causes the CGI raptor to disappear for a single frame and then reappear before the rex chomps down for the kill.

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