THE DINOSAURS OF THE JURASSIC PARK MOVIES
Across the span of the 3 Jurassic Park movies, we see the evolution of
Tyrannosaurus rex from the ferocious predator seen in the first Jurassic
Park movie into the scavenger who falls prey to the mighty Spinosaurus
in Jurassic Park III.
And,what about the huge, fierce Spinosaurus? Could it kill a T.rex? Would
it seek humans as its prey had both species coexisted simultaneously?
Is it even possible for science and technology to recreate animals long
Spinosaurus: whose name means "spiny lizard", was a huge meat-eating
theropod, with a fan-shaped series of spines on its back, that lived during
the middle Cretaceous period, about 95 million years ago.
It was 40-50 feet in length and weighed at least 4 tons, if not more.
Some scientists claim 8 tons is not unreasonable. It is definitely the
largest known spinosaurid.
The spinosaurus was bipedal (walked on 2 legs). It had a very large, long
jaw with long teeth that were NOT serrated.
Like a T.rex, its forearms were shorter than its legs but were longer
than other known theropods.
A mainstay of its diet may have been large fish which it could easily
grasp in its long, wide, crocodile-like jaws. However, as pictured in
the movie Jurassic Park III, the Spinosarus could definitely defeat a
T-Rex with no problem just by virtue of the fact that it could swing its
head around, open its wide mouth and grab the T.rex by the neck. That
would give the Spinosaurus the advantage in the battle.
As for its ability to hunt humans as its prey had we lived at the same
time period? Humans would most definitely have been prey for a Spinosaurus.
As to the function of Spinosaurus's huge sail-like fin? The spines reached
up to 6 feet in height! Scientists speculate 2 possible functions for
One of its purpose could have been to regulate body temperature by collecting
the sun's insolation and distributing it throughout its body. If this
is true, then it could be an indication that Spinosaurus was cold-blooded
contrary to many theories, based on new evidences, that dinosaurs were
The other purpose of the sail could have been to attract a mate, especially
if it were brightly colored as is the case with reptiles living today.
One problem though, Spinosaurus and Tyrannosaurus-Rex did not coexist
on the same continent. They were an ocean apart. Spinosaurus was in present-day
Africa while Tyrannosaurus-Rex roamed areas of present-day United States,
Canada and east Asia. So, the battle is purely hypothetical, created for
the movie alone. However, if the 2 could have existed at the same time
in the same place...then yes, Spinosaurus could have been the victor.
Tyrannosaurus-Rex: Now, what about Tyrannosaurus rex's transformation
from predator to scavenger in Jurassic Park III? This is still a heated
debate among paleontologists.
T.rex has always been classified as a large meat-eating dinosaur with
pointed, serrated teeth (for ripping through meat) that are continuously
Bipedal, its forearms were only 3 feet long with 2 fingered hands. It
was about 15-20 feet high and weighed 5-7 tons. Lengthwise, T.rex averaged
about 40 feet from head to tail.
Leading paleontologist, Jack Horner, sums up T.rex's hunting ability
as follows: "Tyrannosaurus, says Jack Horner, was a nasty-looking,
hunched-over beast that was a lousy runner with mediocre vision and
had spindly little arms that would have been useless in a fight. Even
worse, if T. rex tripped and fell or was toppled by a stubborn foe,
those arms could do little to dampen the impact of tons of falling dinosaur;
the all-but-inevitable broken bones could easily prove fatal.
But T. rex would have been a masterful scavenger. Huge olfactory gear
could have smelled a carcass from miles away, and legs designed for
walking — not running — could cover vast distances in search of carrion,
much as olfactory-gifted vultures soar over the landscape for hours.
And those vicious teeth were adept not at slicing through choice cuts
of meat but at crushing the bones and cartilage left behind by the true
- The debate as to whether T.rex was a hunter or scavenger partly arises
from the dinosaurs' short forelimbs.
Scientist Jack Horner asserts that T.rex never could have been a hunter
because the forelimbs and 2 fingered hands were useless and ineffective
for grabbing and holding onto struggling prey.
- Scientists counter Jack Horner's statements by pointing out that even
today successful predators rarely use their forearms for the hunt and
kill and maintain that it was the "jaws" and the deadly bite
of the T.rex that made it an active and successful hunter and the purpose
of the forearms was for balance.
- Mr. Horner also claims that T.rex's proportions would not allow it to
be a good runner; therefore, it would not actively chase prey.
- Countering this belief, some scientists say that a T.rex could clock
speeds of 12 mph even without running and this would be fast enough to
pursue and catch a Hadrosaur or Triceratops.
- Horner further states that C.A.T. Scans of T.rex's cranium show a large
olfactory lobe and small optical system. The implications here would be
that T.rex was more like today's vulture, keen on "smelling"
and poor on "seeing".
- However, T.rex's brain was not unlike today's alligator and they hunt
very well, eating just about anything they perceive as food.2
The very idea that T.rex's behavior be changed from predator to scavenger
continues to be a controversial one. Nevertheless, Jurassic Park III clearly
embraced Jack Horner's suggestions that T.rex was "100% scavenger"
and so the dinosaur was shown eating an already dead carcass.
Jack Horner was integral to the Jurassic Park movies. In the third movie
Ellie mentions getting a quote from Jack Horner for her book. As it turns
out, Jack Horner is the paleontologist who was Michael Chrichton's inspiration
for the character of Alan Grant and Horner was also a consultant on all
3 Jurassic Park films.3
And so, his theories prompted the change in T.rex's eating behaviors in
the third movie.
More recently, fossil discoveries have revealed this possibility: "
'When Dinosaurs Roamed America' also incorporates findings from New Mexico’s
Zuni Basin that were published only a few weeks before the show’s television
premiere. The most notable find was Nothronychus, a seeming relative of
Tyrannosaurus rex that was a plant-eater instead of a meat-eater".4
Somehow I have my doubts that T.rex as a plant-eater will ever be accepted
by the paleontological community.
Remain Still and he won't know you are there: In the first Jurassic
Park film, as T.rex charges the car in which the 2 children were riding,
Dr. Grant (who is in a different car) is heard yelling: "Don't move!
A Tyrannosaurus ability to sense prey is based on "movement".
Most paleontologists disagree with this assessment of T.rex's ability,
comparing it to a "amphibian visual cortex", and feel that, even if the
children did not move, the dinosaur would still be able to see their presence.
In addition, static prey would no doubt be perceived by the T.rex's sense
rex Fact Sheet
Hunter or Scavenger?
Dilophosaurus: In Jurassic Park I, Nedry drives his car on a rain
soaked road, gets stuck in the mud and then gets out to try to free his
vehicle. He meets a dinosaur that is quite small but which turns out to
be a deadly adversary. The dinosaur threatens Nedry with a "neck
frill" and then spits poisonous venom at him. "The cervical
vertebrae on Dilophosaurus are very long, and they are one under the other,
making a very strong support down the side of the neck". "And there is
also a short anterior projection of these vertebrae (or ribs) which would
make it impossible for the animal to erect a crest".5
In reality, at the time of the filming of Jurassic Park, Dilophosaurus,
an early Jurassic period, meat-eating theropod, was known to be much larger
than the dinosaur in the movie (18-20 ft) and the neck frill was speculative
and not certain, as was its ability to spit venom.
Brachiosaurus: The gigantic, plant-eating brachiosaurs, whose name
means "Arm Lizard", first appeared in Jurassic Park I as Dr. Grant saw
one of them stand on its hind legs and reach its long neck up to eat foliage
from a tree.
In Jurassic Park III Dr. Grant and the children even pet one.
This long-necked creature was one of the largest and tallest dinosaurs
that ever lived. Its front legs were longer than its hind legs and it
was 40-50 feet (12-16 m) tall. Brachiosaurus
was about 85 feet (26 m) long, and weighed about 33-88 tons and it lived
in the middle to late Jurassic period, about 156-145 mya. Brachiosaurus
was a sauropod, whose intelligence (EQ: as measured by its relative brain
to body weight) was at the lowest end of the scale meaning it was not
very smart at all. However, its sense of smell was probably very good
since it had large nasal openings on the top of its head.
As for a Sauropod raising its head to munch on trees, as depicted not
only in the Jurassic Park movies but also in all visual renderings of
these dinosaurs, recent studies show this probably did not happen. Sauropods
were probably grazing animals and ate low growing vegetation and
"Michael Parrish at the University of Northern Illinois and Kent
Stevens of the University of Oregon have painstakingly reconstructed
the vertebrae structures of both the Apatosaurus and the smaller Diplodocus
using a sophisticated computer simulation program called DinoMorph,
written by Stevens. After specifically looking at the neck bones of
both Sauropods – massive animals with long tails, long necks and small
heads – it soon became clear that the animals could scarcely raise their
heads much above five metres, significantly less than ever thought.
"The maximum amount they were able to raise their heads was just a little
bit above the height of their back," Parrish told the Associated Press.
"If you raise the neck any higher, the vertebrae run into each other
and the back locks up."6
And so it appears that Sauropods long necks favor lower, grazing positions
and have a distinct "vertical limit".
Velociraptor: A fast running, bipedal dinosaur, Velociraptor,
whose name means "Speedy Thief", was about 5 to 6 ft long, 3
ft tall and may have weighed about 15 to 33 pounds. It lived in Cretaceous
period, about 85 - 80 mya.
A Velociraptor's stiff tail could only move up and down close to the body,
where it can bend nearly 90 degrees straight up and was useful for balance.
Perhaps the most unique feature among all raptors (DROMAEOSAURIDS)
is the sharp, sickle shaped claw (a second toe), that is hyper-extendable
and which was used to grasp and to rip the flesh of its prey.
Velociraptor's intelligence (as measured by its relative brain to body
weight) was the highest among the dinosaurs. However, this does not mean
that a Velociraptor would be capable of opening a door! It's EQ (encephalization
quotient, which is brain weight) was less than 0.20 which means its intelligence
is equivalent to a modern day ostrich. Certainly, it was not as smart
as a chimpanzee, nor could it do the amazing things shown to us in the
movie, nevertheless it was probably the smartest dinosaur. (That
certainly makes a person wonder what level of intelligence a a Brachiosaurus
It is believed that Velociraptors did, in fact, hunt in packs, as portrayed
in the Jurassic Park movies.
A dromaeosaurid (Sinornithosaurus) fossil that was recently unearthed
in China appeared to have feathers covering its body. It is very possible
that Velociraptor did, also and so Velociraptor has feathers in the third
Jurassic Park movie.
The producers of Jurassic Park I acknowledged the fact that, in the movie,
Velociraptor was larger than any fossils finds of that dinosaur species
at that point in time. Perhaps, the true size was not ominous enough to
impress movie viewers. The Velociraptor in the film was more like a Deinonychus
(10 ft long, 5 ft tall, weight up to 175 pounds, Cretaceous period, about
110 to 100 mya).
Ironically, just before the movie was finished, a new species of raptor
was discovered: a dromaeosaurid species named Utahraptor
(16-23 ft long, weight possibly about 1 ton, mid-Cretaceous period, about
125 mya). It is the largest of all known raptor species. As luck would
have it, Jurassic Park I was now more in keeping with the facts than it
would have been had the new discovery not been made.
The Velociraptors in Jurassic Park III sported crests of feathers in keeping
with discoveries made since the filming of the first movie. Making this
change in the raptors appearance would also support the "Birds are
descended from dinosaurs" theory that was prevalent in all 3 movies.
It is likely that all dromaeosaurids (fierce, sickle clawed, meat-eating
dinosaurs, capable of hyper-extending their second toe) had a protofeather
coating and probably also displayed feathers.7