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This page is about the theropod dinosaur family. Raptor is also another name for modern birds of prey. For more, see Bird.
Raptor is the informal name for a dromaeosaurid: any member of Dromaeosauridae, a dinosaur family of theropod carnivores which lived during the Cretaceous Period. The term raptor, popularized by the film Jurassic Park, is derived from Velociraptor and Deinonychus, the most commonly well-known genera of non-avian dinosaurs.
Raptors were small to medium-sized dinosaurs, ranging from 2 to 20 feet in length, with three claws on their fingers and four on their toes. They walked on their hind legs. The large second toe was retracted off the ground, with the third and fourth toes bearing the weight of the animal. The claw of the second toe was curved and sickle-like. While the function of this claw is debated, it may have served as a weapon when hunting or as an adaptation for climbing. Different species might have used the claw for different specializations.
Fossilized remains of dromaeosaurids have been found in groups, leading to early speculation that raptors hunted in packs like some modern animals such as wolves. However, this is not conclusive, and other evidence, combined with the fact that raptors' closest living relatives (modern birds and crocodiles) are typically solitary has led to the proposal of other possible explanations. For example, raptors may have engaged in only short-term cooperative behavior, or the sites may represent deaths from raptors fighting over the same meal.
Most, if not all raptors were covered in feathers, including large, fanned tail feathers and wing feathers on their forelimbs. Some raptors, such as Microraptor, may have been able to use their feathers to fly or glide through the air. Rahonavis was a genus originally classed as Avialae (modern birds) but later reclassed as Dromaeuosauridae, with the current taxonomy remaining controversial. It may have been capable of powered flight.
Since the success of Jurassic Park, raptors became well-known in popular culture. Raptors have appeared in several other films and television programs, including several of The Land Before Time animated films and Beast Wars, a spin-off of the Transformers. There is a robotic toy based on raptor called Roboraptor. Aside from titles based on Jurassic Park, raptors have been featured in other video games, including the Dino Crisis series, the Turok series, and World of Warcraft. Raptors in popular culture are typically portrayed as pack animals lacking feathers, or having only quill-like proto-feathers. This is because many famous depictions of raptors such as in Jurassic Park predated modern consensus on feathered dinosaurs, and this image remains today. However, as evidence and knowledge of raptors' feathers increases, so too do feathered representations, including in the furry fandom.
Raptor characters are most often zoomorphic. Raptors present a huge creative possibility: Because of the incomplete fossil record, there are competing theories on appearance and behavior, and likely undiscovered species. This allows even aiming to base their raptors on scientific knowledge wide freedom in design choices. The iconic bipedal anatomy of theropods even allows more fantasical representations to still be recognized as raptors. They can be depicted classic scaly looks, in full plumage, or even covered in fur.
Mainstream culture often depicts raptors as monsters or dangerous antagonists, in furry fandom they are often likable colorful characters. Both mainstream and furry cultures use the raptor's image in parody and humor.
The most commonly well-known raptor is Velociraptor, due in large part to its prominent role in Michael Crichton's novel Jurassic Park and the subsequent motion picture series. However, the raptors portrayed in Jurassic Park were, aside from the name, primarily and prominently based upon the slightly close known larger related Deinonychus genus.
Raptor characters in mainstream culture
- Talon, a giant raptor from Primal Rage fighting game (he is still much smaller than other giant monsters).
- Red, titular female utahraptor from Bakker's novel.
- Dinobot, a transformer from Beast Wars.
- Utahraptor from Dinosaur Comics.
- Riptor, a Velociraptor/human hybrid from Killer Instinct fighting game.
- Unnamed raptor from original Jurassic Park videogame.
- Unnamed raptor pack from Richard Delgado Age of Reptiles comics.
There is a wereraptor player character possibility in old World of Darkness and Dungeons & Dragons 3rd edition, a Stone Age race of Velociraptors in Broncosaurus Rex RPG, and two species of raptor mutants in TMNT RPG/After the Bomb.
- Bakker, R.T. 1995. Raptor Red. New York: Bantam Publishing. 272pp.
- Crichton, M. (1990). Jurassic Park. New York: Ballantine Books: pp. 114-115.
- Norell, Mark A. and P. J. Makovicky (2004). “Dromaeosauridae”, D. B. Weishampel, P. Dodson and H. Osmolska: The Dinosauria. Berkeley: University of California Press, 196–209.
- Paul, G.S. 1988. Predatory Dinosaurs of the World. New York: Simon and Schuster. 464 pp.
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