Velociraptor mongoliensis (pronounced /vɛ.ˌla.sɪ.ˈræp. more...
tər/, or approximately veh-LOSS-ih-RAP-tor) meaning "swift thief", referring to its speed and grasping hands (Latin velocis = swift + raptor = thief) was a small, agile, and slender theropod dinosaur species from the Late Cretaceous Period (Campanian age), with a slightly up-curved skull and large sickle-shaped claws on the hyperextendible second toe of each foot. They are commonly known as raptors, a name which can also refer to other dromaeosaurids.
Claws and teeth
Velociraptor had strong jaws with rows of bladed teeth. These, in combination with large claws on their forelimbs and sickle-shaped talons on the second toe gave these animals some impressive weaponry.
In 2005, a BBC documentary, The Truth About Killer Dinosaurs, created an artificial Velociraptor leg and sickle claw to demonstrate the claw's power - when tested on a pork belly, the claw failed to fully penetrate it, lending discredit to the popular notion of Velociraptor using the claw to disembowel its prey (as described in the movie Jurassic Park, although other elements of the film were also exaggerated, such as the raptor's size).
Evidence as to how the claw was actually used is provided by one of the more spectacular specimens of Velociraptor, found in the Gobi desert in 1971. It is a complete, articulated skeleton clutching the skeleton of a Protoceratops. The penetrating toe claw is near to where the Protoceratops' jugular vein would have been, and the Velociraptors arm is clutched in the herbivore's jaws. This suggests Velociraptor used its sickle claw for precision killing, to pierce its victim's jugular vein or windpipe.
Velociraptor was first found and described by paleontologist H. F. Osborn in Mongolia in 1924. About a dozen Velociraptor fossils have been found, including one who died in a battle to the death with Protoceratops and two hatchling Velociraptor skulls that were found near an oviraptorid nest in Mongolia (they may have been a meal). Fossils have been found in Mongolia, Russia, and China.
Whether Velociraptor was a bird or a dinosaur depends on the definition being used. Technically all members of the clade Aves are dinosaurs, however, in common usage a "bird" is not just a member of Aves, but any animal with feathered wings. Under the later definition, Velociraptor and all maniraptor "dinosaurs" are actually birds. Recently, fossils of dromaeosaurid ancestors to Velociraptor have been found in China with feathers covering their bodies, and fully developed feathered wings. In light of this, it is almost certain that Velociraptor bore feathers too (although no fossil evidence has not yet confirmed this), since even flightless birds today retain most of their feathers, and Velociraptor would be no exception.
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