Remember the movie Jurassic Park? Velociraptors were one of the 'stars' of the film, though they were portrayed incorrectly.
The first Velociraptor fossil was found in an expedition by the American Museum of Natural History in the Mongolian Gobi desert in 1922. It was a skull, crushed but complete, along with a claw attached to the skull. This dinosaur's biological name is Velociraptor mongoliensis. The name, velociraptor, is derived from Latin; velox meaning 'swift', and raptor meaning the 'plunderer'. The raptor part also refers to the carnivorous nature of the dinosaur. The president of the American Museum of Natural History, Henry Osborn, named the skull and the claw as the type specimen of a new genus, Velociraptor, in 1924.
More specimens of these dinosaurs were recorded by the Polish and Soviet scientists during the Cold War. A specimen discovered by the Polish-Mongolian team in 1971 is the most significant find yet. It is called the 'fighting dinosaurs'. It depicts a Velociraptor involved in a battle with a Protoceratops. Later, during the 80s and 90s, some more remains were found in China, by a Chinese-Canadian team of scientists. All the known specimens of these dinosaurs were discovered in the Omnogovi province of Mongolia. These dinosaurs are said to have lived in the Cretaceous period. Genera contemporaneous with Velociraptor were Protoceratops, Gallimimus, Oviraptor, Edmontosaurus, Maiasaura, and Saurolophus.
Velociraptor was a bipedal, feathered carnivore. It had an enlarged sickle claw on its hind feet, and a long, stiffened tail. The tail was stiff because of the long bony projections on the upper surface of the vertebrae, and the ossified tendons underneath. One of the fossil specimens is known to have a series of intact tail vertebrae. The tail probably gave the dinosaur horizontal flexibility. These features in the tail helped the animal to be stable while turning at a high speed. It was a middle-sized dinosaur, with adult dinosaurs measuring 6.8 feet long, and less than a meter high. The average weight was about 15 to 33 pounds. It had a long and low skull, with an upturned snout.
A large 'manus' (hand/forelimb) with three strongly curved claws (similar to the wing bones found in modern birds) was their best weapon. The second digit (corresponding to the middle finger in humans), had a large sickle-shaped claw, used mostly to tear into its prey. The structure of its teeth in the jaw was like a saw. This gave it an advantage in getting hold of a fast-moving prey. It is estimated that it could attain speeds of up to 39 km per hour, by moving upright on two legs. This helped them protect themselves in an era when bigger dinosaurs were abundant. More primitive species are said to have had feathers all over the body, and completely developed, feathered wings. The Velociraptor was probably among the most intelligent dinosaurs, as its brain was quite large relative to its body size.
It was primarily an incessant meat eater. It is inferred from the various fossils that have been discovered that these creatures may have hunted in packs.
Velociraptor probably lived in an environment resembling a desert or scrubland with a few, sporadic streams.
The Velociraptor became quite popular after the movie Jurassic Park was released. It became so popular that dinosaur merchandise was in huge demand and sold in large numbers. This dinosaur is surely not extinct from the minds of the paleontologists and the general populace.