Image: Velociraptor mongoliensis dinosaur

Despite its birdlike plumage Velociraptor mongoliensis was not a flier. Its short forelimbs made liftoff impossible, though they may be the evolutionary remnants of an ancient ancestor’s flight-giving wings.

Image © National Geographic Society

Fast Facts

Type:
Prehistoric
Diet:
Carnivore
Size:
6 ft (1.8 m) long
Protection status:
Extinct
Did you know?
Velociraptor was featured in the Hollywood blockbuster Jurassic Park, but scientists stress that the movie's dinos bore little resemblance to the real deal.
Size relative to a 6-ft (2-m) man:
Illustration: Velociraptor mongoliensis compared with adult man

Recent research suggests that Velociraptor mongoliensis was a feathered dinosaur. A forelimb fossil discovered in Mongolia showed quill knobs like those found in many modern birds. These telltale features are evidence of where ligaments attached flight feathers to bone and are considered proof that Velociraptor sported a fine feathery coat.

The dinosaur's plumage may have been used for mating or other visual displays, similar to how modern birds use their colorful feathers, or to help regulate body temperature. The feathers might also have helped females protect their eggs.

Velociraptor highlights many of the numerous similarities between dinosaurs and birds, which go far beyond the skin-deep appearance of feathers. Like birds, Velociraptor had hollow bones, tended nests of eggs, and probably behaved in similar ways.

Despite their birdlike plumage these dinosaurs were not fliers. Their short forelimbs made liftoff impossible, though they may be the evolutionary remnants of an ancient ancestor's flight-giving wings.

Velociraptor was probably one of the more intelligent dinosaurs, because it had a large brain proportionate to its body size. It was formidable on land and, as the name suggests, almost certainly covered ground quickly. Moving upright on two legs, they may have been able to reach speeds of 24 miles an hour (39 kilometers an hour).

When they caught up to prey, these predators likely brought them down quickly with a long, 3.5-inch (9-centimeter) retractable claw on each foot and a mouth full of sharp teeth. Velociraptor is known to have preyed on herbivores such as Protoceratops. One famous fossil immortalized the two species locked in an ancient duel to the death.

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