Get to Know a Dino: Velociraptor

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Today’s birds are descended from a group of dinosaurs known as theropods. This group included many species of dinosaurs, from the towering Tyrannosaurus rex to the more diminutive Velociraptor.

Velociraptor Model in Dinosaurs Among Us

A model of Velociraptor on display in Dinosaurs Among Us.

© AMNH/R. Mickens


Hollywood Confidential

Surprised that Velociraptor is so small? In Jurassic Park, the look and behavior of the now-famous predators was based on Deinonychus, a much larger and more terrifying creature. But the name Velociraptor was more dramatic and easier to say, and a star was born. Thanks to its star turn, Velociraptor is one of the most famous non-bird dinosaurs in the world

Velociraptor fossil in Dinosaurs Among Us

A fossilized Velociraptor on display in Dinosaurs Among Us.

© AMNH


Bird-like

This Hollywood star also has many features that mark it as a close relative of modern birds. The bird-like traits of Velociraptor included hinged ankles, swivel-jointed wrists, and a furcula, or wishbone. The animal’s feet are bird-like, too, with three forward-facing toes—though a horny sheath would have covered the toe and finger bones you see, doubling their size. Living birds and reptiles—as well as non-bird dinosaurs—also have a bony ring in each eye socket.

Feathered and Flightless

Velociraptor was covered in thin filaments, and the feathers on its tail and forearms would look right at home on a living bird, though this animal was flightless. Velociraptor was a fierce predator, chasing prey on two legs. But even this behavior is bird-like; most birds spend more time walking than flying, and only a few catch prey on the wing. 

See fossil casts and a life-sized model of Velociraptor, along with many other dinosaurs and early birds, in Dinosaurs Among Us, now on view.