How did velociraptors kill?
The majority of non-avian theropod dinosaurs are characterised by razor-sharp serrated teeth and talon-like recurved claws, the velociraptor being no exception. Armed with a bounty of claws on both its hands and feet, the velociraptor at first glance seems to be the perfect killing machine, capable of rapidly chasing down prey before shredding their flesh with one of their knife-like tools. Well, that was at least the commonly accepted theory among palaeontologists until late in 2011, before a new study by a team of international dinosaur experts suggested an entirely different use for them.
The study suggested that far from their claws – specifically the velociraptor’s much-touted ‘killing claws’ – being used to shred and slice prey in order to kill them prior to consumption, they were far more likely to be used in a similar way to the talons of modern-day hawks and eagles. This entails the birds using their talons as a gripping tool, snaring prey of a lesser body size, pinning them down with their own body weight and then often consuming them live with their beaks.
This theory is seemingly backed up by the velociraptor’s feet showing morphology consistent with a grasping function, supporting a prey immobilisation model rather than the originally assumed combative one.