The Predator with the “Terrible Claw”
Deinonychus, whose name means “Terrible Claw,” was a carnivorous bird-like dinosaur that lived in the early to mid-Cretaceous period, around 120 million years ago. Other dinosaurs that lived around the same time include Spinosaurus, Sauroplites, and Titanosaurs. Deinonychus was first discovered by Grant E. Meyer and John H. Ostrom in Montana in 1964, and since then, other Denionychus fossils have been discovered in Utah and Wyoming. Here are five interesting facts about Deinonychus.
Deinonychus Fact #1: Deinonychus weighed up to 175 pounds, and it was about five feet tall and ten feet long. Deinonychus was bipedal, meaning it walked on two legs, and it was fast, had a large head with sharp teeth and a flexible neck. Both of Deinonychus’s hands had three fingers with sharp, curved claws, and both of its feet had four toes; each toe had claws and the second tow had a five-inch claw, hence the name “Terrible Claw.” Deinonychus also had a long tail that it used to balance and to make quick turns.
Deinonychus Fact #2: Deinonychus was a fast hunter who probably traveled and hunted in packs. When Deinonychus ran, it would rotate the toe with the huge claw upwards and run on its other toes. Just like Velociraptor, its cousin, Deinonychus used the big claws on its feet to deeply wound its prey. Deinonychus was about twice as large as Velociraptor, and it probably hunted dinosaurs that were much bigger than it. Deinoychus ate anything it could kill.
Deinonychus Fact #3: Deinonychus was part of the family dromaeosaurs. Dromaeosaurs all had lightly built skulls with sharp teeth curved backwards, long arms and hands with sharp claws, and big sickle-like claws on their second toes. Deinonychus was also one of the most intelligent dinosaurs, which made it a deadly predator.
Deinonychus Fact #4: Dr. Robert Bakker wrote in his 1986 book The Dinosaur Heresies that Deinonychus had many features also found in birds (such as its hand). And, Dr. Philip Currie has discovered that many dinosaurs similar to Deinonychus had something like feathers on their bodies, which were probably used for insulation and may have evolved into flight feathers, but so far no evidence has been found that Deinonychus had feathers.
Deinonychus Fact #5: Since Deinonychus was such a fast animal, the discovery of Deinonychus fossils in 1964 led some scientists to theorize that dinosaurs were warm-blooded. Ostrom, the man who named Deinonychus, hypothesized that birds are descendants of dinosaurs, and today, this is widely accepted. Related dinosaurs found in China, including Sinornithosaurus and Microraptor, have been determined to have bore feathers. Other closely related dinosaurs, such as Velociraptor, Utahraptor, and Dromaeosaurus, are also believed to have had feathers.
Learn more about Deinonychus in episode 14 of our podcast.