Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Feathered Raptor

I had intended to blog on this yesterday when the news came out but I decided instead to lie down and moan softly in pain. Anyway, here's some more dinosaur news, which I'm sure you've read already, concerning the ferocious velociraptor. Turns out someone has discovered quill knobs on the forearms bones of a specimen and now the press is doing its usual "dinosaur revisionism" dance. A few feathers and apparently velociraptors weren't predatory carnivores but big fluffy turkeys; as if feathers make them less dangerous. Have these people even heard of terror birds? Only The Times seems to avoid knocking down another dinosaur icon-

The discovery means that as well as being more decorative than the creatures that appeared in the film they could have been an even more terrifying predator because the feathers would probably have been improved their manoeuvrability.

The researchers said that one of the most likely functions of the feathers was to display to other velociraptors, perhaps in courtship rituals or as a show of strength against aggressors. Other functions could have included use as a shield to protect eggs, a temperature control to prevent the dinosaurs from getting too hot or cold, or to help them to manoeuvre while running.

And some reports also mention the fact that the raptors portrayed in Jurassic Park (apparently the main reference for the press and many scientists alike these days) were smaller than real life- "oh, they're so tiny and they have feathers". It seems that few in the media are at all scared of a six foot long, three foot tall predator which hunts in packs, has inch long teeth and a sickle shaped foot claw 3.5 inches long. That would appear to indicate a serious lack of imagination to me. Although heavier, for example, a Doberman Pinscher is only a little over two feet tall. Would a pack of wild and hungry Dobermans scare a member of the press? Given the alarmist cover of dog attack stories I can only assume the answer is a resounding "yes". Is it really that hard then to picture in their minds the dangers that a velociraptor could pose, feathered or not?

Oh yeah, and these same reports fail to mention thee larger raptor species that was discovered around the same time as the Jurassic Park movie and billed as Utahraptor- like Spielberg's raptors these were about 6 feet high and 22 feet long, weighing in at a huge 1500lbs. I wonder if these dinosaurs magically become less dangerous when covered in feathers too?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Nice to see some more scientific discoveries.

I guess it's confirmed that there were indeed dinosaurs that had feathers.