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Velociraptor mongoliensis
"Mongolian swift thief"
Velociraptor mongoliensis

If Deinonychus was a protoavian wolf, then it's Asian cousin, the 6ft long Velociraptor was a feathered fox. Known from the Gobi Desert of Mongolia, Velociraptor lived along side (and probably hunted) other flightless birds like Mononykus, Shuvuuia, and the various species of oviraptorid that nested in its environment, as well as the small horned dinosaur Protoceratops (evidence for this comes from the famous "fighting dinosaurs" specimen of a Velociraptor and a Protoceratops locked in combat). Like smaller ornithodesmids, Velociraptor had long wing feathers, as evidenced by quill knobs on the arm bones that served as feather anchor points. Not all birds have quill knobs and they are usually only present in strong fliers and their decendands, adding evidence to the hypothesis that deinonychosaurs like Velociraptor were secondarily flightless birds. In its smaller relatives, these feathers are thought to have aided in gliding through trees. Being a desert animal, Velociraptor may have used its wings to engage in a behavior known as 'wing-assisted incline running' up sand dunes, gliding from dune to dune in pursuit of prey, and/or mating display or shielding nests while brooding. Ornithodesmids were slow for theropods and probably ambush predators, but in an environment like the Gobi Desert there isn't much cover for surprise attacks, and any techniques, like gliding, would be a useful advantage for an otherwise slow moving predator. This type of behavior was probably infeasible for larger, heavier adults but may have come in handy for juveniles.

Unlike the relatively huge, reptillian "raptors" depicted in Jurassic Park, Velociraptor were small (2 m or 6 ft long, about 2.5 to 3ft tall) flightless birds, likely descended from flying or gliding, Archaeopteryx-like ancestors. Many of these primitive birds, like Microraptor, Pedopenna, and Archeopteryx istelf, had long feathers on the legs, adapted into full-fledged hind wings in some species. I've reconstructed the leg feathers of Velociraptor conservatively, similar to those found in Archaeopteryx, since it was a primarily ground-dwelling bird and long feahters may have gotten in the way of running.

For more on Velociraptor, see the Wikipedia article I helped edit.

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Length: 2.07m (6.8ft)
Weight: 15kg (33lbs)
Location: Djadochta Formation, Ömnögovi, Mongolia and Inner Mongolia, China
Time: Campanian age, Upper Cretaceous (~80 Ma)

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Stem-Aves
Family: Ornithodesmidae
Genus: Velociraptor
Species: V. mongoliensis



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