'Jurassic Park' Gets It Wrong Again: Raptor Fossils Reveal Unexpected Hunting Habits

Daisy Hernandez
Photo credit: Corey Ford/Stocktrek Images - Getty Images

From Popular Mechanics

  • Scientists have used stable isotope analysis to support the hypothesis that raptors did not hunt in packs but rather solo with occasional help from other raptors.
  • The team studied tooth fossils which revealed a disparity between young and mature raptors' diets and therefore, their hunting habits.

One of the many things that Jurassic Park got wrong is that raptors hunt in tight-knit packs—kind of like dogs. Turns out these guys hunted more like komodo dragons, where we see some level of team work in taking prey down, but overall “cooperation is limited.”

A paper published in Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology theorizes that because “highly coordinated hunting strategies are rarely observed in modern archosaurs [a group of reptiles],” it was very unlikely that these creatures would've hunted as a pack.

Using stable isotope analysis, researchers studied tooth carbonate from Deinonychus antirrhopus fossils—a raptor that lived during the early Cretaceous period and had a gnarly set of backward-curving teeth. The fossils came from two strata: the Cloverly Formation in Montana and the Antlers Formation in Oklahoma.

The researchers noticed that larger tooth fossils had less of the Carbon-13 isotope—with medium-sized teeth being “the most depleted”—while smaller teeth were more Carbon-13 “enriched.” Based on these findings—which indicated to a certain extent what kind of diet and water intake the creatures were working with—the team concluded that young raptors had dissimilar diets from mature ones and because of that, that pack hunting was unlikely in D. antirrhopus.

Joseph Frederickson, a paleontologist and lead paper author, said that one of the reasons raptors likely did not actually hunt in organized packs as seen in the movies is because “living dinosaurs (birds) and their relatives (crocodilians) do not usually hunt in groups and rarely ever hunt prey larger than themselves.”

The disparity in tooth size between the adult and young D. antirrhopus fossils is indicative of a “distinct transition in diet as they grew” per a news release.

“This is what we would expect for an animal where the parents do not provide food for their young,” Frederickson said.

“We also see the same pattern in the raptors, where the smallest teeth and the large teeth do not have the same average carbon isotope values, indicating they were eating different foods. This means the young were not being fed by the adults” he notes.

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