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Raptor Dinosaurs: Types & Facts

Instructor: Bridgett Payseur

Bridgett has a PhD in microbiology and immunology and teaches college biology.

If you have seen the movie, Jurassic Park you may think you know all about raptors, but there is more. Raptors are a group of carnivorous dinosaurs that most likely evolved into birds. Read on to learn what these dinosaurs looked like and what makes them unique from other types of dinosaurs.

What Did Raptor Dinosaurs Look Like?

Thanks to Hollywood, the raptor dinosaurs are among the most well-known. This group of hunting dinosaurs is known for its special toe claws, quick speed, strong eyesight, and stiff tail.

Raptor dinosaur have been found all over the world, including China, the United States, and Argentina. They also range in size from less than two feet in length to over twenty feet long. So what do they have in common?

Raptor dinosaurs had feathers, which probably helped keep them warm or impressed potential mates. In addition to feathers, raptor dinosaurs had a 'killing claw', a special, long toe claw, shaped similarly to a bird's beak, which was possibly used to hold onto and kill prey. Raptor dinosaurs also had flexible forearms that they used for grabbing. Over many years, these forearms probably evolved to be able to perform a 'flight stroke', used by birds to fly. All of these features are evidence that raptor dinosaurs are closely related to modern-day birds.

The First Raptor Dinosaurs

The first raptor dinosaurs appeared over 120 million years ago. Microraptor gui, as its name implies, was tiny- less than two feet long. It was covered in feathers, and is considered the most bird-like dinosaur.

Another early raptor dinosaur was Deinonychus antirrhopus. It evolved shortly after Microraptor gui, but was over five times larger, reaching ten feet in length. The first Deinonychus antirrhopus fossils were found in Utah in the late 1960s. These were incredibly important fossil finds to paleontologists, as they helped scientists learn that dinosaurs could be fast, active hunters.

Velociraptor and Utahraptor

Velociraptor mongoliensis is probably the most famous of the raptor dinosaurs, thanks to movies. However, the velociraptors depicted in these movies were quite different than the real velociraptors. Velociraptor mongoliensis was quite smaller in real life, reaching only about six feet in length. Like other raptor dinosaurs, velociraptor had feathers as well.

Velociraptors were very fast. These are among the most recent of the raptor dinosaurs, having evolved shortly before the dinosaurs became extinct, 66 million years ago. Velociraptor mongoliensis fossils were first found in Mongolia.

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