The Terrible Claw, the Deinonychus
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The Terrible Claw, the Deinonychus

The Deinonychus was the perfect predator who became prey to time and extinction.

Deinonychus was a dinosaur from the early Cretaceous period, around 115 to 108 million years ago. This dinosaur is part of the Dromaeosaurid family, otherwise known as the Raptor family. The word “Deinonychus” is Greek for “terrible claw”; Deinonychus have a 4.7 inches claw that they use for killing.

Deinonychus was first discovered in 1931 by the palaeontologist Barnum Brown. However, it was classified as a Dromaeosaurid and given the name Deinonychus, by the palaeontologist John Ostrom in 1964. Dr. John Ostrom proved that the Deinonychus was closely related to birds as their skeletons were far more bird-like than the majority of dinosaur skeletons found at that time and they had the “Killing claw” found in all the dinosaurs of the Raptor family. The Dromaeosaurid or Raptor family all have two things in common, bird-like skeletons and a sickle-like claw. Scientists believe that this claw was used to finish off wounded prey and to assist with climbing.

Deinonychus were designed to kill. They were about 4 feet tall and about 11 feet long, they weighed about 300 pounds. Like many of the Raptor family, they hunted in packs. Scientists believe their packs contained around 8 to 10 full-grown adults, and that they hunted much like a pack of mammals. The teeth of the Deinonychus were sharp and strong, and made to rip apart the flesh of other animals with ease. Scientists believe that their jaw strength would have easily rivalled the bite of a hyena. The claws on their hands were sharp and powerful, used to slash, disembowel, or hold prey. They also had their “killing claw”, this claw probably was not big enough to actually eviscerate prey, but was used to stab their prey in the throat, causing a mortal wound.

Deinonychus was a carnivore. They hunted almost everything, from small lizards to two tonne dinosaurs. If alive today, they would easily be able to dispatch almost any animal, from buffaloes, to lions, to even small elephants and hippos. Scientists believe that they were cannibalistic when food was scarce, most likely killing off the weak first. Very few dinosaurs preyed on Deinonychus and more Dienonychus were killed in fights for dominance or from prey trying to defend themselves, than from predators.

The Dienonychus lived on this planet in a time when mammals were small and reptiles ruled. This formidable Raptor was one of the main reasons that scientists stopped thinking that all dinosaurs were slow, cumbersome and stupid. The Deinonychus was the perfect predator who became prey to time and extinction.

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Comments (3)

Were they feathered or down-covered, like the velociraptors seemed to have been? I still cannot get those images of Jurassic Park out of my mind, that vellies were really 'feathered' or fluffy...

Nice article.

I think maybe we need a paleontology category.