A whole generation was introduced to dinosaurs as kids through the Jurassic Park series. What’s a shame is that those kids might now be disappointed to find that the iconic dinosaurs featured in the movies don’t quite look how we thought.  

Science changes all the time and many of these facts have been changed, altered, or omitted completely once new information has become available. Remember, palaeontologists are using fragments of information that’s over 65 million years old. And those fragments are just that, fragments. We will likely never know for sure exactly how these animals looked and lived, we can only make educated guesses.

In saying all of that, let’s tear into the Jurassic Park series and make fun of the things they got wrong because why not?

Tyrannosaurus Rex

Credit: Universal

The T. Rex is the star of the show and, scientifically speaking, it isn’t completely inaccurate but there are some glaring differences.

They Had Great Vision

You know how the T. Rex can’t see you if you aren’t moving? Yeah, try that in real life and you’ll find yourself as an easy meal for the tyrannosaur. The tyrannosaurs rex actually had excellent vision with forward facing eyes like a hawk. In fact, they have the largest eyes of any terrestrial animal ever. It all suggests that the animals likely had brilliant vision rather than one based on movement, which when you think about it, doesn’t make much sense for a predator.  

Add A Smidge Of Feathers

The tyrannosaurus was likely feathered around its head and tail. There were suggestions that it may have been completely feathered but that now seems unlikely.

These feathers haven’t been found on tyrannosaurus rex specimens, but they have been found on several other tyrannosaur species. This would suggest that the rex would have feathers too. One study from 2017 argues that the t-rex was completely scaly, but this has not been universally accepted by palaeontologists due to several analytical oversights.

Because of this feathered coverage, Dr. Jack Horner, the science advisor on all the Jurassic Park films, suggested that the T. rex might have been more colourful. He highlighted the issue surrounding certainty about most aspects of dinosaurs as we cannot really know for sure. For all we know, it’s “possible that it [t. rex] had feathers, was pink, and danced to attract mates.”

It is universally accepted, even by the 2017 paper, that T. rex hatchlings were indeed heavily feathered and lost many of their feathers as they matured.

It Can’t Run

It’s odd to think, but an adult tyrannosaurus rex can’t actually run at all. It’s way too heavy and big. A bone can only handle so much and moving a body weighing anywhere between 5.5 and 9 tons isn’t easy.

One 2017 study suggested that if a T. rex went any faster than 12mph, it would have shattered its bones. They used two techniques in order to complete a locomotor reconstruction of the T. rex that found they would walk in a way that would match the speed of its swaying tail. In this case, the preferred walking speed would be just 5km/h (3mph).

It was suggested previously that the T. rex could run at a speed of 16 to 40km/h (10 – 25mph). Then it was changed to say that the T. rex couldn’t run but could walk at those speeds due to its great bulk requiring one foot on the ground at all times. The new study did say that it may be possible for the T. rex to run if it were discovered how flexible its tail was. If it were flexible, it would act as a shock damper during running which could allow the animal to run without breaking its bones.

So could the Jeep chase scene happen? As it stands, probably not.

Velociraptor

Credit: Universal

Is it common knowledge at this point that the velociraptors in Jurassic Park aren’t velociraptors? They are in fact deinonychus, another member of the same family as the velociraptor.

Why The Name Change?

Deinonychus | Credit: Emily Willoughby

Palaeontologists have joked that Jurassic Park author, Michael Crichton, and director, Steven Spielberg, just thought the name velociraptor was sexier than deinonychus and so went with that. Velociraptor is cooler, no doubt, but it also seems likely that Crichton was influenced by Gregory Paul’s book Predatory Dinosaurs which suggested that the velociraptor was a deinonychus subspecies. Paul’s contributions are largely ignored in mainstream science but given Crichton’s penchant for contrarian scientific positions, it might be probable that he was influenced by Paul’s suggestions.

Small & Only Kind Of Smart

Velociraptor | Credit: Fred Wierum

Velociraptors, the real ones, were only about the size of a “big turkey or a small wolf,” according to Dr. John Hutchinson. Not quite the 6ft monsters of Jurassic Park.

They really weren’t as smart as the films suggest either. Hutchinson went as far as to call them “no smarter than a pretty dumb bird like an emu or something like that.”

DinoBuzz explained the reason as to why this may be and why the films suggest they were otherwise. Compared to other dinosaurs, velociraptors had modestly larger brains, but they weren’t as elaborate and complex as mammalian brains or even most modern birds. If we were to use relative brain size as a measure for intelligence (which is inaccurate), velociraptors would be only slightly smarter than the average dinosaur.

So can they open doors? Can they communicate with each other vocally? Probably not. 

Loads of Feathers

The argument surrounding whether or not a T. rex had feathers is not present for the raptors. These animals were definitely covered in feathers. As far back as 2007, studies have found that velociraptor fossils had quill knobs – little bumps along its arm that anchor feathers to the bone. These are common amongst modern birds. The same 2007 study gave several reasons as to why these feathers were there including:

  • An evolutionary leftover from smaller ancestors that could fly
  • Mate attraction
  • Shielding nests from the cold
  • Manoeuvrability whilst running

Spinosaurus

Credit: Universal

The Spinosaurus in Jurassic Park 3 was a cool addition to the series even if it was in a less than great movie. However, its depiction is probably one of the least accurate in the series.

Bigger Than a T. Rex, But Not Badder

Current estimates put the Spinosaurus at about 15-16 metres (49 – 52ft) in length and weighing about 6.4 – 7.5 metric tons, making it the largest known terrestrial carnivore. Its skull alone was 1.75 metres long (almost 6 feet)! If we only looked at its size, you would think it would easily beat the T. rex in a fight, but it would actually be useless against a T. rex.

The reason for this is its mouth and teeth. The long and narrow skull resembles a crocodile, and the teeth are straight and conical instead of curved and bladelike. This suggests that the Spinosaurus ate fish meaning that it would lack the biteforce of a T. rex which would mean it would only take one mistake from the Spinosaurus to find itself in the belly of a Rex.

It Lived In Or Near The Water

Credit: PaleoGeekSquared

The Spinosaurus, as is shown in the film, was semiaquatic and likely operated in much the same way as modern crocodiles and alligators. Though that is also in contention. There have been suggestions that it would actually have been more effective in deep water.

The most recent study that is still currently in review suggests that Spinosaurus wasn’t an aquatic dinosaur at all. This 2022 study suggests that it preferred to live along any waterside environment including lakes and rivers found further inland. The large tail fin was probably more for display rather than swimming.

There is a lot of new study surrounding the Spinosaurus and so much about it is up in the air. Partly this lack of information is due to the original fossils of Spinosaurus being accidentally destroyed in WWII. It seems that recently we are making up for lost time.

Dilophosaurus

Credit: Universal

The dilophosaurus has been done dirty in Jurassic Park more than any other dinosaur. It’s depiction was based on research that has been horribly dated for a long, long time, but now we know better.

It Wasn’t Small & It Didn’t Have Venom

Credit: Leandra Walters

We see the dilophosaurus in the film use its frilled neck and venom to intimidate, confuse, and kill Dennis Nedry. It turns out that everything we thought we knew about this dinosaur was founded on a bad paper that used plaster bones to fill in the missing gaps. The problem is that the plaster bones weren’t marked and it wasn’t remembered which were the real bones and which were fakes.

New studies have found that the dilophosaurus had a strong jaw, rather than a fragile one as previously suggested. This was one of the main reasons why it was believed that it spat venom and had a frill.

Instead of being smaller than a man, it’s actually 6.1 metres (20ft) long and weighed about three-quarters of a ton. It definitely was a large animal that ate other large animals.

That was just a few of the things that Jurassic Park didn’t get right. I could be here all day talking about every dinosaur shown in the series but that would be way too long. This is already too long. If you want us to do more dinosaurs, let us know below or on any of our socials.

For more, check out our YouTube video about Jurassic Park and why none of the sequels are as good as the first one. 

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