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In which John allows his four-year-old son to choose a topic for today's video. And the topic is velociraptors, which turn out to be a surprisingly interesting dinosaur precisely because they were nothing like we've been led to believe. Yay dinosaurs!

Will this be the first vlogbrothers video not made by Hank that Henry watches in its entirety? Only time will tell!
John: Good morning Hank, it's Tuesday. I'm going to try an experiment today. I have to make a video today, what should I make it about?
Henry: A velociraptor! 
John: Velociraptors? I'm into it.

Okay, the velociraptor. So, the velociraptor was not a famous dinosaur until Michael Crichton's 1990 novel Jurassic Park. In that book, and the subsequent Steven Spielberg movie, a velociraptor skeleton is excavated in Montana, and there are these, like, terrifying creatures. They're smart and almost people-sized, and they've got those weird reptilian scales and they hunt in packs taking down dinos and people alike.

And even if you haven't seen Jurassic Park, and God knows Henry hasn't, you're still familiar with, like, the terror of the velociraptor, right? Like, Toronto named its NBA team after the raptors, because they're just... ohh, you wanna stay away from them, they're gonna beat you at basketball!

Yeah, except 1) The velociraptor never actually lived in Montana, it lived in Mongolia in China, 2) Velociraptors were not scaly, they were feathered, 3) They probably didn't hunt in packs, 4) They could not have hung out in Jurassic Park, because they lived 75 million years ago, in the Late Cretaceous Period, and 5) They were not human-sized killing machines, they were, like, long-tailed turkeys. 

In short, Hank, the Toronto Raptors are named after a Mongolian creature that probably looked like this. Adult velociraptors weighed less than the average three-year-old human, and although their name means "swift thief", in fact they were probably quite slow, because they were walking on short little turkey legs. 

Ohh, off-topic, but at the State Fair turkey legs are just so delicious; I wonder if velociraptor legs are good...

You may have noticed that in real life, there is one animal species that's truly terrifying, and it's us. We would have posed a far greater threat to velociraptors than they would have posed to us. Anyway, the velociraptors in Jurassic Park are based off of a larger American cousin called deinonychus. But they called them velociraptors because that's a much cooler name, Hank! And that actually happens a lot in the world of dinousaurs. 

Like, Hank, when we were kids, the coolest dinosaur in the world was the brontosaurus, which means "thunder lizard". But Hank, it turns out that brontosaurus isn't even a thing, it's just an apatosaurus, which means "deceptive lizard", which isn't nearly as cool. I don't want my gigantic lizards to bring the lies, I want them to bring the thunder. Also, as Henry will happily point out to you, apatosaurus isn't even that big, certainly not compared to diplodocus.

So why did velociraptors have feathers? Well, they were part of the bird-like Dromaeosaurid family, all of which had feathers, and some of which could probably actually fly. But velociraptors couldn't fly, and they may have used their feathers to, like, attract mates, but probably it's just an evolutionary left-over, the way that Blind Mole-rats still have eyes and Humpback Whales have vestigial hind legs. 

But now that I've disappointed you by telling you the truth about velociraptors I'm gonna tell you two awesome things about them. First, they could jump, like, ten feet high, vertical. Secondly, they had these retractable sickle-shaped claws in their hind legs that they used to, like, stab their prey. And we know they could kill the somewhat larger, although not as large as you would expect, protoceratops. We know this partly because there's a fossil of a velociraptor and a protoceratops locked in combat. And then while they were fighting a sandstorm came and drowned them in sand. 

Hank, the pleasure of having a dinosaur-obsessed child is that you realize both how much we know and how much we don't know about the distant past of life on Earth. Like, Hank, the reason that Michael Criton's velociraptors were featherless is that we didn't know for sure until 2007 that velociraptors were feathered because that's when scientists discovered quill knobs on one of their forearms. 

There are a lot of cool things about dinosaurs, Hank, but the coolest thing is that 100 million years later we're still learning.

Thanks to Henry for the video topic.

Hank, I'll see you on Friday.