Velociraptor mongoliensis.docx



(and other dromaeosaurids)

Now, you may be thinking, "That isn't a Velociraptor! That's some…toothed bird!"
Well, guess what? That's essentially what Velociraptor mongoliensis and the other members of its group were. Toothed, flightless hawks or eagles. Heck, the term "raptor", which is commonly applied to this group of dinos, is primarily used to refer to birds of prey! 

The depiction of the "Velociraptors" in the popular book and film franchise Jurassic Park has altered the public perception of dromaeosaurids (raptors) greatly from the scientifically accurate restorations by paleontologists.

In reality, they were not the scaly, floppy-tailed, pronate-armed, 6-foot tall movie monsters shown there, but elegant, graceful, feathered instruments of DEATH.

You may find the "true" raptor less intimidating, but make no mistake, an unprepared human would be disemboweled and eaten alive within seconds of contact with a hungry raptor. [1]

First things first – manner of attack. 

One thing the films got right was the claws:

The so-called "killing claws", or "sickle claws" were a real thing. The sickle claws were a hypertrophied (as opposed to atrophied) second toe, which was retractable, to be held off the ground in order to keep it sharp.

The function of the claws has been of much debate, but the most commonly accepted hypothesis at the moment is that their primary function with older, smaller ancestors was for climbing trees. However, many later, giant raptors such as Utahraptor and Achillobator retained the sickle claws, even when far too large to be semi-arboreal. 

Here's where the more horrifying implications come in.

Many modern accipitrid birds of prey have a…unique form of predation. They leap upon their prey and restrain them, gripping tightly with their powerful talons. They then proceed to devour the prey alive, until blood loss EVENTUALLY ends the life of the victim. It has been theorized that this form, called the Raptor Prey Restrain (RPR) "Ripper" model, could have very much been possible with dromaeosaurids [1]. The large talon would have been perfect for pinning the prey down. It has also been theorized that this is one of the reasons that raptors retained wing feathers even when far too massive to possibly fly (with their wing proportions). They could have been used as stabilizers to maintain balance while devouring their victims.

Oh, right, forgot to mention, but raptors had wings. In fact, it's been theorized that dromaeosaurids actually evolved from flying ancestors, essentially making them flightless birds, like an ostrich or an emu![2]

In the end, though, for the moment it's just a theory, and either way they were deadly, deadly hunters.

Second point: Size.

To tell the truth, ol' Velociraptor wasn't a particularly large animal…at 3 feet tall and 6 feet long, it was the size of a turkey, if the turkey had  a long tail. But underestimation is the #1 way to get killed in the animal kingdom. Despite its rather…petite size, it could, with no doubt, take down an unprepared human. Ocelots, bobcats, coyotes, all are smaller than man and have torn them apart. I believe our raptor would be no exception to this group.

Now we get down to the fun stuff – how do you defend yourself from an attack?

Well, for starters, it depends on the environment. You never know where or when a raptor attack might occur, from the comfort of your own home to the deserts of Mongolia 72 million years ago.

When you do encounter a raptor, do not allow it to believe that you're prey. It has likely never seen a human before, and doesn't know for certain you have almost no way of defending yourself. Assert your dominance, stand as tall as you can, be loud, let it think you're a fearsome predator. If you try to run away, almost anywhere, you will die. TRY TO SCARE IT OFF. If that doesn't work…

Find an object, any object. The only way humanity survived in the past, and even today, is the use of tools. Be it a knife or a rock, find something that you can use to increase the efficiency of your blows. This will vary with the location.

It is IMPERATIVE that you keep it at a distance. One good blow to your gut from its talons, and you're done for. Try to kick it away when it gets close, a kick is the longest range of attack you have. Dromaeosaurids had hollow bones, so a good, well-placed kick could at least incapacitate it, at most break its bones. Try kicking the gastralia, basically its chest, because the "ribs" could shatter and possibly puncture some of its vital organs.

Focus on keeping the feet away from you. Don't fear its bite, it will hurt, but that wound will heal with time. The jaws were not particularly strong. If it has lunged at you, attempting to bite, let it bite your forearm, and jump forward yourself, and try to pin it on the ground. However, if you do it at the wrong angle, you could end up right where it wants you, so REMEMBER THE TOE-CLAWS.

If you've got it pinned down, pummel it in weak spots. If you managed to get an aforementioned object, now is the time to use it. Put all your weight into keeping it down, and hit it with all your strength. The neck is also a good bet, suffocation could be your savior. So, you've now either got a dead or incapacitated dinosaur!

Congratulations, you can now take down a lone raptor, with some luck.

Well, here's the thing – were they loners?

Popular culture has depicted them as pack hunters, though we have no concrete evidence to be sure. The only possible indicator for this was a group of Deinonuchys antirrhopus found around a Tenontosaurus tilletti, a cow-sized herbivorous dinosaur. There are many other explanations for this, such as Komodo Dragon-like feeding mobs, but the possibility that they were coordinated pack hunters still exists.

Some possible evidence includes some trackways made together by 6 large dromaeosaurids in what is now Shangdong, China. They were each about a meter apart, walking in the same direction, and walking at a fairly slow pace. This is some feasable affirmation that at least SOME dromaeosaurs lived in groups, but there's a major problem in assumptions like this. Even members of the same genus can have wildly different behavior. For example, within the genus Panthera, the members leo and tigris have wildly varying lifestyles. The lion lives in a pride and  hunts cooperatively, while tigers are solitary and extremely territorial. So a hypothesis could state that, say, Velociraptor mongoliensis was a pack hunter, but Velociraptor osmolskae was not.

But, assuming they did live in a pack…

Remember, DO NOT show fear. Screaming or running will make them instantly recognize you as prey, and that's the last thing you want. Also, don't turn your back to them. Kind of irrelevant if you're surrounded, but ehh.

If you can find a chokepoint and hold it, you'll force the raptors to come at you one by one and you could, with luck, use the skills mentioned earlier to take down a few and have the others decide you're not worth the trouble. However, finding such a location varies drastically on the, well, location of the encounter.

Don't bother counting your foes. Pack animals very often have more members observing from afar, who only come in if the situation gets dire for them.

Remember, KEEP A DISTANCE, especially from your abdomen. Other parts of the body have bones and the like to protect vital organs, but even if you've got rock-hard abs, a raptor talon will slice through it like butter.

We have no estimate for an average pack size, since we don't even know if they lived in them. Though, if you take down more than, say, three of them, it's likely the rest of the pack will back off. Even if they run off, this is NOT a cue to let your guard down. Wait for at LEAST 15 minutes, they could simply be coming around and preparing an ambush.

So, there you have it, a way to survive a Velociraptor attack! Just remember, if your abdomen gets punctured, just fall on the ground and raise your neck. It's quicker to die of suffocation than blood loss…


[1] Fowler, Denver W. "The Predatory Ecology of Deinonychus and the Origin of Flapping in Birds." PLOSone, 18 Dec. 2011. 

[3] Headden, Jaime A. "Making Lip of It." The Bite Stuff. N.p., 18 Sept. 2011

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