Raptor Dinosaurs: 15 Popular Dromaeosaurs You Need To Know

Leave a comment / / Updated on: 18th December 2023

raptor dinosaurs

The dromaeosaurid dinosaurs are arguably one of the most fascinating groups of dinosaurs

They’re commonly referred to as “raptors,” which means “plunderer” or “robber.” 

The name refers to the modifications of their forelimb, which allows them to use it for “seizing” or “grasping prey.” 

But the most prominent physical attribute of the dromaeosaurids had to be the large, sickle-shaped talons on their hind foot. 

Dromaeosaurs are known for a wide range of other specializations and their agility. 

However, what makes them really intriguing and very important to paleontology is their link to modern birds. 

Most of the dromaeosaurs show bird-like features, and their discovery has led scientists to conclude that birds are the closest living relatives of the dinosaurs. 

In fact, one could say that birds are technically dromaeosaurs themselves, and you’ll be technically correct. 

In this article, we’ll list some of the most well-known members of this group, discussing their physical peculiarities and the general significance of their discovery. 

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15. Tianyuraptor

Tianyuraptor | PaleoEquii via Wikipedia CC BY-SA 4.0
Name Meaning“Tianyu thief”
EraMesozoic — Cretaceous Period
ClassificationDinosauria, Saurischia, Theropoda
Length1.6‭ ‬meters (5.2 feet)
Weight12.5 kilograms (28 pounds)
LocationChina (Asia)

The Tianyuraptor is one of China’s most well-known dromaeosaurid dinosaurs. 

It is commonly described as a “transitional species” because it shows features found in both northern and southern populations of dromaeosaurid dinosaurs that lived in China during the Cretaceous. 

Tianyuraptor is commonly referred to as the “running predator” because it is considered an agile predator.

It had unusually short forelimbs compared to other raptors. 

14. Acheroraptor

Acheroraptor life restoration | Emily Willoughby, via Wikipedia CC BY 3.0
Name Meaning“Hell thief‭”
EraMesozoic — Late Cretaceous
ClassificationDinosauria, Saurischia, Theropoda
Height0.6–0.9 meters (1.95–2.9 feet)
Length2–3 meters (6.66–10 feet)
Weight18–40 kilograms (39.6–88 pounds)
LocationUSA (North America) 

The Acheroraptor (not to be confused with Archaeoraptor) was a dromaeosaurid dinosaur native to North America. 

It is one of the youngest known raptors, known to have been alive about 66 million years ago. 

It is around the same age as the famous Dakotaraptor, and both dinosaurs are known from the famous Hell Creek Formation. 

The Acheroraptor, which translates as “Hell’s thief,” is named after this formation because it is the first raptor whose fossil was found in the formation. 

Only the jaw bones of this dinosaur have been discovered so far, leaving various aspects of this dinosaur’s appearance and behavior open to speculation. 

13. Zhenyuanlong

Zhenyuanlong life restoration | Emily Willoughby via Wikipedia CC BY-SA 4.0
Name Meaning“Zhenyuan’s dragon‭”
EraMesozoic — Early Cretaceous
ClassificationDinosauria, Saurischia, Theropoda
Height12.5 centimeters (4.9 inches)
Length2 meters (6.6 feet)
Weight20 kilograms (44 pounds)
LocationChina (Asia)

Zhenyuanlong is known from a remarkably well-preserved fossil from the Early Cretaceous rocks of China. 

The only fossil of this dinosaur found so far preserves traces of pennaceous feathers on the wings and tail of this dinosaur. 

This specimen is one of the best pieces of evidence of well-developed feathers in a large, non-flying dromaeosaur. 

Since they were probably not useful for flight, the exact function of these feathers isn’t clearly known. 

Zhenyuanlong was a medium-sized dinosaur, about 6.6 feet long on average. 

It is nearly the same size as a modern condor but twice as heavy. 

Zhenyuanlong lived during the Early Cretaceous Period about 120 million years ago.

12. Adasaurus

Life restoration of Adasaurus | ABelov2014 via Wikipedia CC BY 3.0
Name Meaning“Ada’s lizard”
EraMesozoic – Late Cretaceous
ClassificationDinosauria, Saurischia, Theropoda
Height0.7 meters (2 feet)
Length2.39–3.5 meters (7.8–11.5 feet)
Weight36.4–87 kilograms (80–192 pounds)
LocationMongolia (Asia)

This Late Cretaceous dromaeosaur from Mongolia had sickle-shaped claws like its other relatives, but they were considerably different.

The claws of the Adasaurus were greatly reduced and blunt, which suggests that it was probably not as useful for hunting prey as the claws of other raptors. 

They still retained the sickle shape and would have been useful for restricting prey or stabbing at them at close quarters. 

The Adasaurus measured about 11 feet on average and had a lightweight build similar to the Velociraptor.

11. Halszkaraptor

strangest dinosaurs
Halzkaraptor | Tomopteryx via Wikipedia CC BY-SA 4.0
Name Meaning“Halszka’s seizer”
EraMesozoic — Late Cretaceous
ClassificationDinosauria, Saurischia,‭ ‬Theropoda
Height45 centimeters (1.47 feet)
Length60 centimeters (1.9 feet)
Weight0.72–1.6 kilograms (1.6–3.5 pounds)
LocationChina (Asia) 

Halszkaraptor was a bizarre dromaeosaurid that looked a lot like living water birds such as ducks.  

It lived in Mongolia during the Late Cretaceous Period. 

Halszkaraptor showed various characteristics that suggest a semi-aquatic lifestyle. 

Although the hind limbs of this dinosaur looked like they were adapted for running on land, Halszkaraptor had forelimbs modified into flippers, which were likely useful for swimming.

The duck-like snout of this dinosaur suggests that it likely had a specialized diet, which was made up predominantly of aquatic prey. 

Halszkaraptor was similar in size to modern mallard ducks, with a long neck about 7.9 inches long on average. 

This dinosaur is unique because it is one of the few dromaeosaurid dinosaurs known to have exhibited a semi-aquatic lifestyle. 

10. Sinornithosaurus

Sinornithosasurus | FunkMonk via Wikipedia CC BY-SA 3.0
Name Meaning“Chinese bird-lizard”
EraMesozoic – Late Cretaceous
ClassificationDinosauria, Saurischia, Theropoda
Height0.5 meters (1.6 feet)
Length1.2 meters (3.9 feet)
Weight3–5 kilograms (6.6–11.0 pounds)
LocationChina (Asia)

Sinornithosaurus was a relatively small dinosaur that lived in China during the Late Cretaceous, about 122 million years ago. 

It was one of the feathered dinosaurs discovered in Asia in the 1990s that provided insights into the connection between dinosaurs and birds. 

Fossils of this dinosaur preserved impressions of long feathers covering its entire body. 

Some of the body feathers were as long as 3 to 4.5 centimeters long. 

The dinosaur’s name, which translates as “Chinese bird-lizard,” is a reference to the similarities between this dinosaur and modern birds. 

It was incapable of powered flight but was probably able to glide from tree to tree. 

Sinornithosaurus measured about four feet long and weighed about 11 pounds on average. 

This makes it one of the smallest dinosaurs ever discovered. 

9. Dakotaraptor 

Dakotaraptor from the Cretaceous era | Warpaintcobra via iStock
Dakotaraptor from the Cretaceous era | Warpaintcobra via iStock
Name Meaning“Thief of Dakota”
EraMesozoic – Late Cretaceous
ClassificationDinosauria,‭ Saurischia & Theropoda
Height1.8 meters (6 feet)
Length5.5–6 meters (18–20 feet)
Weight220–350 kg (485–772 lbs)
LocationUSA (North America)

The Dakotaraptor is to South Dakota, and the Utahraptor is to Utah. 

It is one of the most famous North American dinosaurs. 

With a length of about 18 feet, the Dakotaraptor is almost the same size as the Utahraptor

However, it looked more like the average-sized raptors like the Deinonychus and Velociraptor in terms of overall appearance and body proportion. 

For instance, this dinosaur’s limbs were not as robust as the Utahraptor’s. 

Instead, it was more lightly built, which made it more gracile and agile.

Dakotaraptor had a large flexor tubercle, the attachment point for the flexor muscles of its large claw. 

This gave it a much greater slashing power compared to its relatives. 

8. Achillobator

Life restoration of Achillobator
Life restoration of Achillobator | PaleoNeolitic via Wikipedia CC BY 4.0
Name Meaning“Achilles hero”
EraMesozoic Era – Late Cretaceous
ClassificationDinosauria, Saurischia, Theropoda
Wingspan3.96 to 4.88 meters (13 to 16 feet) 
Length3.96 to 4.88 meters (13 to 16 feet)
Weight165.11 to 249.93 kg (364 to 551 lbs)
LocationMongolia, Asia

The Achillobator was a large and agile dromaeosaur from Late Cretaceous Mongolia. 

It is famous as one of the largest raptors ever discovered. 

The Achillobator was heavily built, with long arms and sharp claws.

Achilobator was short and stocky but grew to a length of up to 16 feet. 

However, the robust build of this dinosaur meant it was probably not as agile as other raptors. 

It was a hypercarnivore capable of hunting large prey. 

Although no direct evidence of feathers has been found for the Achilobator, experts think it probably had feathers on its body like other dromaeosaurids. 

7. Austroraptor

Austroraptor dinosaur walking isolated in white background -3D render
Austroraptor | Elenarts108 via iStock
Name Meaning“Southern thief”
EraMesozoic – Late Cretaceous
ClassificationDinosauria, Saurischia, Theropoda
Height1.8 meters (6 feet)
Length6 meters (20 feet)
Weight91–227 kilograms (200.6–500.4 pounds)
LocationArgentina (South America)

The Austroraptor is the largest dromaeosaurid dinosaur known from the Southern Hemisphere. 

It was discovered in 2002 in the Bajo de Santa Rosa locality of Argentina in South America. 

Expectedly, it is the most famous dromaeosaurid dinosaur from the continent.

The Austroraptor was big enough to rival some of the biggest North American raptors. 

The average length of this dinosaur was about 16 feet, and it weighed about 300 kilograms (660 pounds) on average. 

The Austroraptor had an elongated skull (up to 31 inches long), and its conical, non-serrated teeth were more similar to that of the spinosaurid dinosaurs than raptors. 

6. Bambiraptor

A reconstruction of Bambiraptor
A reconstruction of Bambiraptor – PaleoEquii – License
Name Meaning“Bambi Thief”
EraMesozoic – Late Cretaceous
ClassificationDinosauria, Saurischia & Theropoda
Height0.4 meters (1.3 feet)
Length1 meter (3.3 feet)
Weight2 kilograms (4.4 lbs)
LocationNorth America (USA)

Bambiraptor was a small, sharp-toothed dromaeosaur from Late Cretaceous North America. 

It was named after Bambi, the famous Disney movie character. 

But the Bambiraptor was not a cute and cuddly creature. 

It was an agile predator that likely hunted small prey like lizards and mammals in its habitat. 

Both the forelimbs and hindlimbs of this dinosaur were long. 

The long hind limbs suggest it was likely an agile predator, while the forelimbs were useful for holding on to prey.

Another intriguing attribute of the Bambiraptor was how its fossils were discovered. 

It was found in 1995 by Wes Linster, a 14-year-old fossil hunter. 

5. Microraptor

Microraptor was a carnivorous four-winged reptile bird that lived in Mongolia, China during the Cretaceous Period.
Blue-feathered Microraptor 3D Illustration – CoreyFord via Istock
Name Meaning“Small Thief or Tiny Predator”
EraMesozoic – Early Cretaceous
ClassificationDinosauria, Saurischia & Theropoda
DietCarnivorous (potentially scavenging) or piscivorous
Height0.4 meters (1.3 feet)
Length80centimeters (2.6 feet)
Weight1.25–1.88 kilograms (2.8–4.1 lbs)
LocationChina (Asia) 

As the name suggests, the Microraptor was a relatively small raptor. 

In fact, the Microraptor is the smallest dromaeosaurid dinosaur and also one of the smallest dinosaurs ever discovered. 

This crow-sized dinosaur was one of the most abundant non-avian dinosaurs in Northeastern China during the Cretaceous Period (about 120 million years ago).

The Microraptor had long pennaceous feathers on both its forearms and hindlimbs as well as on its tail. 

Despite having four wings, this dinosaur was probably incapable of powered flight but could glide down from the top of trees like flying squirrels. 

The fossil of the Microraptor preserves crucial evidence of the link between dinosaurs and birds. 

4. Dromaeosaurus

Artistic restoration of D. albertensis
Photo: Fred Wierum via Wikipedia CC BY-SA 4.0
Name Meaning“Running Lizard”
EraMesozoic – Late Cretaceous
ClassificationDinosauria, Saurischia & Theropoda
Wingspan1.45 meters (4.6 feet)
Length1.83 meters (6 feet) 
Weight280–300 kg (617–661 lb)
LocationNorth America

The dromaeosaurids are named after the Dromaeosaurus.

It was discovered in 1914, which means it is the first member of the family ever discovered. 

Ironically, this dinosaur is poorly known due to limited fossil representation. 

Most of what is known about this dinosaur is based on knowledge gained from studying its relatives. 

Dromaeosaurus was a medium-sized raptor. 

It weighed about 35 pounds and was only a little under seven feet long. 

The Dromaeosaurus had a robust skull, and its jaws were lined with large cone-shaped teeth. 

This dinosaur’s short, massive skull and its robust teeth are key differences between the Dromaeosaurus and other raptors. 

3. Utahraptor

Utahraptor from the Cretaceous era | Warpaintcobra via iStock
NameUtah Raptor
Name MeaningUtah’s predator
EraMesozoic – Early Cretaceous
ClassificationDinosauria, Saurischia, Theropoda
Height1.5 m (4.9 ft)
Length4.9–5.5 m (16–18 ft)
Weight280–300 kg (617–661 lb)
LocationNorth America

With a length of about 20 feet and an average weight of more than 1,000 pounds, the Utahraptor is famous as the largest dromaeosaurid dinosaur. 

It was one of the top predators of Cretaceous North America from about 135 to 130 million years ago.

Unlike other dromaeosaurs that preyed on smaller animals, the Utahraptor preyed on larger prey such as the Iguanodons and Ankylosaurs. 

Given its size, the Utahraptor was not swift enough to chase after prey. 

Instead, it was an ambush predator that hunted prey through stealth. 

The claws of this dinosaur’s hands were more specialized for cutting and slashing at prey compared to those of other dromaeosaurids. 

2. Deinonychus

Deinonychus 3D illustration | Warpaintcobra via iStock
Deinonychus 3D illustration | Warpaintcobra via iStock
Name Meaning“Terrible claw”
EraMesozoic – Early Cretaceous
ClassificationDinosauria,‭ Saurischia & Theropoda
Height0.87 meters (2.9 feet)
Length3.3 meters (10.8 feet)
Weight60-73 kilograms (132-161 pounds)
LocationWyoming, Montana, Utah; North America

The Deinonychus is a slightly bigger close relative of the famous Velociraptor.

It is also one of the most well-known dromaeosaurids. 

This 11-foot-long dinosaur lived in North America about 108 million years ago. 

The dinosaur’s name translates as “terrible claw.”

Like other raptors, the second digit of each foot of the Deinonychus had a prominent sickle-shaped claw. 

In addition to this, Deinonychus also had large hands with three big claws on each forelimb.

When the Deinonychus was discovered in the 1960s, scientists found that it was an agile predator.

This changed the widely-held perception that dinosaurs were slow, lumbering animals and sparked a debate about dinosaurs being cold-blooded or warm-blooded reptiles.

1. Velociraptor

Velociraptor dinosaur walking isolated in white background | Elenarts108 via iStock
Name Meaning“Swift plunderer”
EraMesozoic – Late Cretaceous
ClassificationDinosauria, Saurischia, Theropoda
Height0.6 meters (2 feet)
Length1.8 meters (6 feet) 
Weight15-20 kilograms (33-44 pounds)
LocationMongolia and China (Asia) 

This famous “Jurassic Park” dinosaur is arguably the most popular dromaeosaurid dinosaur. 

Ironically, the poster child of the entire group isn’t exactly as depicted on the big screen. 

The raptor in the movie was actually modeled after the closely related Deinonychus and had many of its qualities altered. 

The real Velociraptor was only about 1.6 feet tall at the hip and weighed about 43 pounds. 

This means it was significantly smaller than some of the most popular raptors, such as Deinonychus and Utahraptor

Also, while the on-screen version of the Velociraptor was depicted as scaled and featherless, the real animal most likely had feathers on some parts of its body. 

More than a dozen Velociraptor fossils have been discovered so far, making it one of the best-known dromaeosaurids. 


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