Five facts about dinosaurs that Jurassic World probably got completely wrong
Following the release of Jurassic World on DVD and Blu-ray, we spoke to dinosaur expert Dr Jakob Vinther about the film’s biggest dinosaur disasters that question the ‘science’ in ‘science fiction’…
Dinosaurs were covered in feathers, not scales
After years of debate, scientists now know that dinosaurs were the ancestors of birds, not reptiles. Dr Jakob, along with scores of other palaeontologists, have confirmed that dinosaurs as large as T. rex were covered in feathers rather than scales. “Velociraptors featured quite heavily in the film. We know that there’s not a single inch of a velociraptor’s body, apart from nails and claws, that wasn’t covered in fluff.”
Not all dinosaurs looked dull
Scientists know that dinosaurs needed to be well camouflaged to their drab prehistoric environment in order to successfully ambush prey – which explains why Jurassic World’s dinosaurs never stray far from a colour palette of grey to khaki.
Though remaining hidden was key to dinosaurs. Dr Jakob, who examines the colours of dinosaur feathers, has discovered that the predators likely had colour patterns similar to today’s birds of prey.
“Microraptor, which was a very close cousin to velociraptor, was iridescent like a crow,” he says, “it had a metallic sheen”.
“Another little dinosaur called Anchiornis had sort of speckled, white feathers with black tips, and a red crest, it looked like a fluffy chicken.”
Birds have four-dimensional colour vision – they can see in UV. Considering the close relatedness of dinosaurs and birds, it’s likely that dinosaurs shared this ability. Such an adaptation would have been hugely beneficial to dinosaurs because it would have allowed them to brandish UV markings on their feathers that could have been seen by other members of their species, but not by the animals they were concealing themselves from.
“Dinosaurs could have well had some cryptic UV signals that allowed for some sexual communication between males and females, despite being camouflaged to other animals.”
We don’t know if dinosaurs could actually roar
The Jurassic Park saga’s dinosaurs are famous for their iconic, world-defying roars. Unfortunately, the fossil record lacks any preserved remains of dinosaur throat-parts, so it is almost impossible to work out what the beasts actually sounded like.
“T. rex was fluffy, so maybe it actually sounded a big turkey gobbling before it ate you, we really don’t know.”
The only clues concerning dinosaur noises come from their modern day relatives, birds and crocodiles.
“Crocodiles can grunt but they can also whistle and make little howling sounds, so dinosaurs could have made similar noises”. “
What we do know about animals is that most of the time they aren’t making any noise at all. It’s likely dinosaurs spent most of their time being pretty quiet.”
A dinosaur probably couldn’t outsmart a team of scientists
Jurassic World’s demise comes about after the theme park’s research lab creates a deadly human-dinosaur hybrid, which was as lethal as a T. rex but as smart an everyday man or woman. Though we can dismiss this as just a cool sci-fi idea, there is evidence that dinosaurs were reasonably intelligent.
More like this
“They did start to get some visual and spatial navigation abilities, they had very well developed areas in their brain for that” (shown from indents on their skulls).
“They could also use tools, just like crows and parrots, but they were probably but not much smarter than that.”
Chris Pratt wouldn’t have lasted long in a cage with velociraptors
In the film, Chris Pratt’s character is a “raptor whisperer” – he forms a bond with a pack of velociraptors and even battles alongside them. Though it’s impossible to know what sort of relationship humans would have formed with dinosaurs, evidence from our relationship with birds hints we probably wouldn’t have been able to connect with them.
“I don’t think you could tell a bird to do something specific, falconeering [hunting game using a trained falcon] is probably the limit”.
But maybe we should let them off…
“They made it clear in the movie that what they have produced are not dinosaurs, they are monsters created in tubes with some dinosaur DNA, created after our own desire for terrifying beasts, so they kind of excuse themselves for being scientifically inaccurate.”
May Half Price Sale
- Save up to 52% when you subscribe to BBC Science Focus Magazine.
- Risk - free offer! Cancel at any time when you subscribe via Direct Debit.
- FREE UK delivery.
- Stay up to date with the latest developments in the worlds of science and technology.