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Jurassic age dinos killed like cats

Paleontologists have said that the velociraptor dinosaur, made famous by the "Jurassic Park" movies, was not as vicious as was portrayed

india Updated: Oct 22, 2005 16:46 IST

Paleontologists have said that the velociraptor dinosaur, made famous by the "Jurassic Park" movies, was not as vicious as was portrayed, and contrary to popular belief embraced its victim, using its razor sharp teeth to give the fatal bite to its prey.

Earlier researchers believed that velociraptors used their curved appendages to disembowel prey, but study of a robotic model by Phil Manning from the University of Manchester, showed that the claw was used in a fatal embrace to hang on to the victims. The study appears in the current issues of Biology Letters.

A two-legged carnivorous dinosaur, Velociraptor belonged to the group of dinosaurs known as dromaeosaurs, small- to medium-sized creatures from the Cretaceous Period (146 million to 65 million years ago).

"Our study shows that the claw was used as a climbing crampon. It allowed the dromaeosaurs to hook themselves on to the flanks of their prey: when the prey turned, so too was the attacker," said Manning.

For their test, Manning used a model made of steel, aluminium, carbon fiber and Kevlar, which featured a hydraulic system to control movement of the velociraptor's limbs and mimicked the kick that a 20-kilogram dinosaur might have produced.

Experiments revealed that the impact on pig carcasses at both low and high speed contact only produced small, round puncture wounds that reached a depth of about 30-40 millimeter (1 to 1.5 inches).

"It seems highly unlikely that wounds of this depth would have posed a danger to the vital organs of a large herbivorous dinosaur, though they would obviously be fatal to small prey," Manning said.

The claw also bounced off when tested on crocodile skin, which is probably the most similar to dinosaur skin.

"In one test it even broke the tip of the reconstructed claw," said the researchers.

Manning said that Velociraptor claw was mostly like the claw of big cats that hung on to the prey while the teeth gave the fatal bite.

"I realised that the sick-claw was not a knife, but was rather more like the claw of a cat. Cats use their claws to pierce and hold prey, not to disembowel. The sharp, finely serrated teeth could then have inflicted many wounds on the prey, while firmly locked onto the latter's flanks," he added.

First Published: Oct 22, 2005 16:46 IST