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Tyrannosaurus Rex and Velociraptors: The History of the Cretaceous Period’s Most Famous Carnivores

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The massively popular 1990 novel Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton and its subsequent movie adaptations led to a huge resurgence in interest in dinosaurs and the prehistoric world. That interest continues to the present day, even though most of the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park weren’t actually from the Jurassic period. Triceratops, Velociraptor, Tyrannosaurus Rex and the huge sauropods such as Brachiosaurus that feature in the book and movies all actually belong to the Late Cretaceous period, more than 40 million years after the end of the Jurassic. Regardless, certain kinds of dinosaurs remain instantly recognizable, and among them, the “king” is undoubtedly the Tyrannosaurus.
The first discovery of a Tyrannosaurus was made in 1902 and the largest carnivorous dinosaur ever found at the time quickly gripped the popular imagination. Even its name was dramatic - Tyrannosaurus Rex means “King of the Tyrant Lizards.” The T-Rex as it quickly became known didn’t appear until the last age of the Late Cretaceous period, the Maastrichtian, but when it did, it was the biggest and most terrifying of all the theropod predators.
Thanks to the movie, there has been some unwitting confusion over the identity of the Velociraptor, and this confusion was due in large part to the fact the name sounds far more scary than the creature to which the name originally belonged. Moreover, the creature to which the label was applied in the novel and movie was actually a distant cousin named Deinonychus, but as the story goes, the author, Michael Crichton, thought “Velociraptor” sounded “more dramatic.” The actual Velociraptor lived not in the badlands of North America, but in the badlands of central-eastern Asia, and it was not nearly as intimidating as Deinonychus. In fact, the main species of genus Velociraptor - Velociraptor mongoliensis - was no bigger than a turkey.
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