Five Ways Jurassic Park's Velociraptors Differ from Their Real-Life Counterparts

Monday, 01 June 2015 - 3:19PM
Monday, 01 June 2015 - 3:19PM
Five Ways Jurassic Park's Velociraptors Differ from Their Real-Life Counterparts
The behavior of Jurassic World's Velociraptors is vastly different from best estimates of real-life dinosaur behavior, as they are somehow tamed by Chris Pratt like a domesticated animal. But as it turns out, there have been scientific inaccuracies in the portrayal of this dinosaur species from the get-go, as scientists claim that Jurassic Park's Velociraptors wildly diverge from the scientific community's conception of their appearance and intelligence. (Although really, what can you expect from a franchise that should actually be called "Cretaceous Park"?)

Here are five ways that real-life Velociraptors likely differed from the raptors of the infamous Jurassic Park kitchen scene:


That kitchen scene would have been pretty anti-climactic if the raptors had been true to size; real Velociraptors were apparently only the size of a large bird or canine.

"It's the size of a big turkey or a small wolf," Dr. John Hutchinson, an evolutionary biomechanist and professor at the Royal Veterinary College in London, told Business Insider. Wolves have made for fairly terrifying movie villains in the past, but we can still understand why the filmmakers would have wanted to embellish a little.


Throughout the Jurassic Park franchise, raptors have been depicted as incredibly intelligent, demonstrating strategic thought processes and often outsmarting the humans. In Jurassic Park III, one scientist claimed that they were "smarter than dolphins, smarter than primates." Not so, according to Hutchinson, who stated, "The evidence of [a Velociraptor's] brain is that it's no smarter than a pretty dumb bird like an Emu or something like that." Once again, a band of scientists struggling to outsmart an Emu wouldn't make for a very compelling movie.


Not only would the raptors have behaved more like Emus, they would have looked more like Emus, as every meat-eating dinosaur in Jurassic Park should have feathers, according to paleontologist Peter Larson: 

"We didn't know at the time 'Jurassic Park' came out that, in all probability, every meat-eating dinosaur and these bird-mimic dinosaurs had feathers just like living birds... And whether they lost those feathers as they became very large and didn't really need them for insulation anymore or whether they retained those feathers throughout their life, the truth was that they had feathers."

This scientifically accurate sketch by artist Luis V. Rey has been used in museums to demonstrate what a Velociraptor would actually look like:
Five Ways the Jurassic Park Velociraptors Differed from Their Real-Life Counterparts

[Credit: Luis Rey]


As can be seen in the above sketch, the raptors in Jurassic Park were just generally a little off. The proportions of their limbs and bodies were not quite correct, and they had pronated hands, or the ability to turn their "palms" facing downwards. According to the Jurassic Park mythology, this could potentially be explained away by genetic mutations as a result of their unorthodox origin, but more likely the filmmakers just weren't too bothered.

Their name

When it comes down to it, the Velociraptors of Jurassic Park are inaccurate because they're not really Velociraptors. When Michael Crichton wrote the novel on which the film was based, he used a taxonomy drawn from the field guide Predatory Dinosaurs by Gregory Paul, which labeled the Velociraptor a subspecies of Deinonychus. The latter species is much more similar to the raptors seen in Jurassic Park/World, as they are much larger and more intimidating, but rumor has it that Spielberg kept Crichton's scientifically inaccurate name for the species simply because it sounds cooler.

Jurassic World comes out in theaters on June 12.
Science of Sci-Fi

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