The Disappointing Truth About the 'Jurassic' Raptors & 3 Other Dinos
They weren't nearly as scary in real life.
When Jurassic Park hit theaters 20 years ago, it wowed audiences with the most realistic movie dinosaurs they'd ever seen. Since then we've learned a lot more about dinosaurs, like that a lot of them had feathers. And we also know that first movie took some artistic liberties with some of the prehistoric beasts.
Now that Jurassic World is in theaters, it's already catching some flak for its unrealistic dinosaurs, even compared to the first movie.
"The original film showed dinosaurs that were not simply roaring, scaly monsters but were active, social, bird-like animals with dynamic bodies," British zoologist Darren Naish told The Sunday Times.
"Now, Jurassic World is simply a dumb monster movie and there has been a deliberate effort to make its animals look different from the way we think they should."
After the movie brought in more than $200 million in its opening weekend, we doubt anyone at Universal is sweating the science too much, but everyone who saw it might be curious exactly how the movie dinos differed from reality. So here's a rundown.
1. Velociraptors Were Small and Had Feathers
The roughly human-sized Velociraptors from the Jurassic movies are about three or four times the size of the actual Velociraptor fossils that've been dug up. Those fossils have been found so far only in Mongolia, not in North America as in the first movie. And they also showed evidence of the Velociraptor having feathers. The texts describing the dinosaur generally describe it as being the size of a turkey.
If you're looking for a dinosaur more like the movie monster, look to the Utahraptor, which was discovered, as its name implies, in Utah. Paleontologist Robert T. Bakker, the leading authority on the beast, is the real-life version of Dr. Alan Grant, who was played by Sam Neill in the Jurassic movies. After Jurassic Park disappointed him for its lack of realism, Bakker wrote Raptor Red, a novel written from the perspective of a prehistoric Utahraptor, which was the largest of the raptors, even if it did still have feathers.
2. Tyrannosaurus Rex Wasn't Quite So Fast, And Its Vision Was Fine
In the first movie, our heroes are spared a grisly death in the jaws of a Tyrannosaurus Rex when they take advantage of a peculiar weakness in its eyesight. It has a hard time seeing things that aren't moving. But based on its skull, we know the T-Rex probably had some of the best eyesight in the prehistoric world. With deep grooves in its snout and large eyeballs, T-Rex most likely could see farther and more clearly (moving or not) than humans, and probably even birds of prey like hawks and eagles, according to University of Oregon paleontologist and vision expert Dr. Kent Stevens.
After our heroes sneak away from the T-Rex in Jurassic Park, it's not long before one of the movie's most famous scenes, where the Tyrannosaurus chases a jeep and nearly catches it. But according to recent studies, T-Rex probably had a top speed around 25 mph, meaning the jeep could likely get away from it relatively easily.
Lastly, the fossil record shows that T-Rex likely had feathers. It's been debated whether juveniles had long feathers and adults had short feathers and only in a few places, but feathers were there.
3. Brachiosaurus Couldn't Stand Up on Its Hind Limbs
In the first Jurassic Park movie, Dr. Grant marvels at a Brachiosaurus as it rears up on its hind limbs to eat the leaves from the top of a tree. While paleontologists believe many sauropods did actually rear up to browse from higher tree tops, Brachiosaurus wasn't one of them. According to a 2011 study using computer modeling based on existing fossils, paleontologist Heinrich Mallison concluded that "the body shape of Brachiosaurus invests the animal with a far greater risk of toppling sideways or backward" if it tried to rear up on its hind legs. Its mass was moved too far forward, compared to other sauropods like diplodocus, to be able to rear up safely.
4. Dilophosaurus Wasn't Venomous, and Didn't Have a Frill
When Dennis Nedry encounters a Dilophosaurus in Jurassic Park, he isn't too concerned with the smallish dino's curiosity. But it isn't long before the thing extends its frills and spits venom into his eyes before chowing down on the wayward Nedry for dino dinner. Both the book and the movie point out that no one expected the dinosaur to be venomous, and they didn't know about the frill. They also made it smaller in the movie to make sure it couldn't be confused for a Velociraptor. So it shouldn't come as any surprise that there's no evidence to suggest Dilophosaurus was venomous or that it had a frill, and that it was bigger. In fact, the roughly human-sized real-life Dilophosaurus was much bigger than the real-life Velociraptor.