Velociraptors Weren't Predators, But Dirty Cheating Scavengers

By Jamie Condliffe on at

If Jurassic Park taught me anything, it was that velociraptors were fast, deadly and terrifying predators. But it turns out that might not be true, because a team of researchers has discovered that 'raptors were scavengers.

A team of scientists has analysed the skeleton of a 'raptor found in the Gobi desert, Mongolia, and discovered that it had the bone of a pterosaur—a massive flying dinosaur with a 2-meter wingspan—in its belly.

But the scientists point out that a velocirapor would never have taken on a pterosaur. Firstly, unlike the way they're depicted in Jurassic Park, velociraptors were only about a foot and a half tall, so were too small to battle a pterosaur. Second, uh, they couldn't fly. Speaking to the BBC, David Hone, one of the researchers, said:

"It would be difficult and probably even dangerous for the small theropod dinosaur to target a pterosaur with a wingspan of 2 meters or more, unless the pterosaur was already ill or injured. So the pterosaur bone we've identified in the gut of the velociraptor was most likely scavenged from a carcass rather than the result of a predatory kill."

So the turkey-sized predator was a dirty scavenger—at least some of the time—a finding that's reported in Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, and Palaeoecology. Another childhood theory shattered. Thanks, scientists. [Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, and Palaeoecology via BBC]