Velociraptor leaping biomechanics.
Did Jurassic Park finally get something right?
John Ostrom is often heralded for being one of the founding forefathers of the notion that some dinosaurs were fast, agile hunters with his work on Deinonychus antirrhopus in the late 1960s. Forty years on, and yet another of his theories may have been proved right.
We all know and love Jurassic Park right? And yet most of us know, despite the incredible effects, and seemingly lifelike dinosaurs, the wondrous film is plagued with palaeontological inaccuracies. Well, studies on leaping lizards, such as the Red-headed Agama (Agama agama) may now show that that (possible unknowingly) that Jurassic Park may have got something right.
The famous ‘Rex rescue’ scene during the film’s finale, shows a ‘raptor’ jumping from the balcony onto an Alamosaurus skeleton. As it jumps, the raptor lifts its tail to stabilise it self (top image). Work done in the University of California, Berkeley, have shown the Red-headed agama (amongst other lizards) to carry out a similar mechanism. With some biomechanical modelling, they have concluded that Velociraptor (and perhaps other dromaeosaurs, such as its closely related ‘cousin’, Deinonychus) may have been able to carry out such a behaviour.
Previous work by Freedman et. al. on the predatory ecology of Deinonychus has strongly suggested that the tail of dromaeosaurs such as Deinonychus (and in this case, Velociraptor) was used for stability during feeding (as the animal pinned its prey down). This current study presents an intriguing possibility of using lizards (usually, birds are used) as modern analogues for biomechanical models of dromaeosaurs.