Two New Raptors Featured in 'Jurassic World: Dominion' as New “Sickle-Clawed” Villains
Warning: Contains spoilers for 'Jurassic World: Dominion'
A couple weeks ago I went to see Jurassic World: Dominion, and I thought it was pretty good. It was not the best Jurassic Park/World film, but none of the sequels have ever really been quite as amazing as the original Jurassic Park, so I didn't expect it to be mind-blowing or anything like that. I will likely do a full review of the movie here on my blog sometime in the future, but for now I want to address the two vicious new raptors featured in the film, Atrociraptor and Pyroraptor.
The over-sized Velociraptors from Jurassic Park are pop icons. With their stealth, coordination, and immense intelligence they made perfect movie villains. The 2015 film Jurassic World changed their portrayal a bit, still keeping them as ferocious predators, but also making them trainable. In Jurassic World there were four Velociraptors, all trained by Owen Grady, but by the end of the movie only one, Blue, remained. Blue has been friendly towards (certain) people throughout the Jurassic World trilogy, so some new bad boy raptors moved in on the block. But who are these new raptors?
Atrociraptors, meaning “savage thief”, chase Jurassic World protagonists Owen Grady and Claire Dearing through the streets of Malta, displaying great agility and bloodthirsty dispositions. Atrociraptor lived during the Late Cretaceous, in what is now Alberta, Canada and is known only from a single specimen, which consists of parts of the upper and lower jaws. Its skull was shorter and taller than other Dromaeosaurs and its teeth have unusually large serrations. The anatomy of its skull was captured well in the Dominion Atrociraptors.
The Atrociraptor "Ghost", from Jurassic World: Dominion
Would it surprise you if I told you that the Atrociraptors in Jurassic World: Dominion are larger than what this dinosaur would have actually been in real life? Probably not. The Atrociraptors in Dominion are twice as tall as actual Atrociraptors. But the Jurassic Park/World raptors are not genetically pure, and it's possible these Atrociraptors are essentially genetically modified Velociraptors, unless there have been Atrociraptor embryos hovering around off screen this whole time. But either way, given the context in which the Atrociraptors appear, it seems very likely that they originate from some shady, probably illegal, corporation(s).
My overall opinion on the Atrociraptors: I thought they were great! They brought back that intense raptor action that we have come to know and love from the Jurassic franchise. What made them so terrifying, and what made them stand out from the Velociraptors, is that rather than being stealthy, coordinated predators, they are relentless long-distance runners with a frightening determination to bring down their prey. Honestly, I'm happy they went with Atrociraptor, in part because its name just sounds scary. And with its different design and behavior, it definitely was a refreshing raptor upgrade.
But Atrociraptor was not the only lesser-known Dromaeosaur making its cinematic debut in Dominion. Pyroraptor, whose name means “fire thief”, brought another upgrade to the franchise... feathers. Now, before I get into that, Pyroraptor is known from a handful of fossils, which have been recovered from southern France and northern Spain. The holotype specimen was discovered after a forest fire, hence its name. The genus contains only one species, Pyroraptor olympius, which was named after Mont Olympe, at the base of which the remains were found. The exact classification of Pyroraptor is controversial, due to how little fossil material has been found.
Now, back to Dominion. The Pyroraptor is covered in a coat of what some have criticized as “unnatural” looking feathers. I don't think the feathers looked half bad personally. The feathers are gray and red, probably a play off it being the “fire thief”. The Therizinosaurus featured in Dominion also sported a fluffy covering, but its coat was far less impressive than the decked-out Pyroraptor.
This raptor did something else, something unexpected. Suddenly, the raptor dove underneath a blanket of ice and began swimming after protagonists Kayla Watts and Owen Grady, who took off running atop the frozen lake. Owen, I guess thought he could cover more ground (or ice, as the case may be) by taking a bit of a leap, but instead he just wound up falling through the ice into the freezing water below, with the Pyroraptor fast approaching. Luckily, Kayla pulled him up just before the raptor took a bite out of him. I know research has been done on how well dinosaurs could swim, but I am unaware of anything raptor specific. They no doubt would have been able to swim, but whether they were as graceful and calculated as the Jurassic World Pyroraptor I cannot say. Also, had this raptor lacked feathers to keep it warm, I'm sure it would have been far less comfortable in the stinging cold water (it's a wonder Owen wasn't blue after Kayla pulled him out).
So, Atrociraptor and Pyroraptor, two lesser-known Dromaeosaurs appear on the big screen for the very first time in Jurassic World: Dominion, bringing with them all kinds of epic dinosaur action and peril.