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Robotics Science

Velociraptor Bad At Disemboweling 298

illtron writes "British scientists at the University of Manchester were apparently bored and decided to find out, once and for all, if the Velociraptor was as mean as Jurassic Park would like everyone to think. They created a robotic Velociraptor leg to simulate the effect that leg would have on pig and crocodile skin. It turns out that disemboweling a dino probably would have been out of the question, since the best that big claw could do was usually just to leave a deep puncture." From the article: "I realized that the sick-claw was not a knife, but was rather more like the claw of a cat. Cats use their claws to pierce and hold prey, not to disembowel. Whereas my work was mostly theoretical, Phil took one step farther as he was given the opportunity to mechanically test the disemboweling hypothesis. His work is very important,"
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Velociraptor Bad At Disemboweling

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  • by Anonymous Coward




  • by Cruithne ( 658153 ) on Friday October 21, 2005 @10:37PM (#13850191)
    ... from the other two raptors you didnt even know were there. And they DO have disembowling claws, unlike this obvious decoy.
    • .. from the other two raptors you didnt even know were there. And they DO have disembowling claws, unlike this obvious decoy.

      Actually the other two carried AK-47s. At least until the anti-gun lobby got laws passed to ban those weapons. That was shortly before they all went extinct. No way to protect themselves from the mammals who still carried automatic weapons.
  • ... for next year's IgNobel prize.
  • Unconvincing (Score:3, Insightful)

    by geordieboy ( 515166 ) on Friday October 21, 2005 @10:42PM (#13850215)
    It seems possible their methodology and conclusions are flawed. If you saw away at a large chunk of meat with a small but sharp knife you can make a deep wound. Why do they assume the raptor attacks in a short stabbing motion? What about other modes of attack their "robotic arm" doesn't simulate?
    • It would be my assumption that when attacking another animal the raptor would not slash and make a deep puncture wound, then saw back and forth to gut the animal. Most animals would run away or fight back.
      • Re:Unconvincing (Score:3, Interesting)

        by geordieboy ( 515166 )
        You're probably right that a sawing motion is not practical in an attack. But more generally, I'm not sure exactly why it is useful to build a robot arm to do their demonstration. Wouldn't a few minutes experimentation with a sharp piece of bone and a lump of meat achieve the same, and probably give you more insight about the specific types of movement you can use to cause damage than just manipulating this simplistic arm? I suspect they used the arm to lend some extra perceived scientific flavor to their o
        • But more generally, I'm not sure exactly why it is useful to build a robot arm to do their demonstration.

          Robotics means you get consistent force from trial to trial.

        • Re:Unconvincing (Score:5, Informative)

          by Kaboom13 ( 235759 ) <> on Saturday October 22, 2005 @12:41AM (#13850703)
          The point of the robot arm is to get the same range of motion as the actual Dinosaur would have had. They can then give each joint a strength proportional to the size of the muscle that would have been attached to it (some guess work here I would assume). Then they can play around with it and see what different movements and would kind of attacks would have been possible and how much damage they would do. Animals use their claws in different ways, and the appendage the claw is attached to gives you just as much information as the size and shape of the claw itself. The expirement isn't what damage can WE do with a velociraptor claw it's what damage the velociraptor could have done.
    • Re:Unconvincing (Score:3, Informative)

      by kfg ( 145172 )
      If you saw away at a large chunk of meat with a small but sharp knife you can make a deep wound.

      Try "sawing away" at something, anything, with an awl. The whole point here is that a velociraptor claw is not a sharp knife, but a pointy stick.

      You can make a wound as deep as the "hilt", but no "longer" than the diameter of the claw.

    • I suspect this is related to a show I saw recently...I don't specifically remember if it was the Discovery Channel but it probably was. The show featured simulations of various "animal vs. animal" fights, to see who would win. It was mildly amusing, in a Mythbusters sort of way, but I remember thinking at the time that the methodology and assumptions seemed bogus. Science-wise, it seemed about as valid as a middle school science fair project. For example, the one I saw had two animals facing off with ea
      • I remember the one they did trying to find out why sabertooth tigers had their fangs.

        Eventually they discovered that it used them to sever the jugular of its prey in one bite.
        • Yeah, I t hink that's the one I saw. They were looking at death by severed jugular or death by crushed trachea. But so much of the contraption was built from non-sabretooth materials, using motions designed by the builders of the model, with a lot of subjectivity over what was fatal and what was not, that I didn't have much confidence in the results. It was fun to watch, though.
    • Knowing that a kangaroo or ostrich can disembowel someone as well, and we know that -- we don't have to guess, they should simulate those to see if they can reproduce the effect with a reproduction of those animals' legs using their model. If they can't, then there's a flaw in their methodology. You have to use a control.
    • by jafiwam ( 310805 ) on Saturday October 22, 2005 @11:07AM (#13852381) Homepage Journal
      Yeah, I was going to say anybody that thinks cats only make small puncture wounds has never owned one.

      Here's an experiment;

      - borrow cat
      - fill tub while cat watches
      - grab cat
      - put cat in water

      You will note that a) cats can somehow reverse gravity and automatically apply force upward with nothing to work against and b) 6 inches by .5 inch deep wounds are a trivial matter for a cat to produce

      This guy (in the article) doesn't know what he's talking about.

      It's cool they are using engineering to solve some of these issues instead of stupid speculation though.
  • Who care about TFA (Score:5, Insightful)

    by zappepcs ( 820751 ) on Friday October 21, 2005 @10:43PM (#13850221) Journal
    Just how cool is it to be paid to test "stuff" like that?

    Fsck! I need a job like that!
    • Did you see the National Geographic Channel thing about sabre-tooth tigers? They had a (metal) simulated hydraulic sabre-tooth jaw (on the end of a small backhoe) chomping into a cow carcass jugular. They're jabbering about foor-pounds per square centimeter, depths of arteries, length of teeth, and flow rates from buffalo hearts, and I'm screaming "What a cool job!!!". Amazing 3-D compu-cartoons based on skeletal dimensions, etc. - highly recommended.
    • Just how cool is it to be paid to test "stuff" like that?

      Fsck! I need a job like that!

      You can contact and search for the Animal Faceoff show. Requirements: Very good knowledge of hydraulics, zoology, physics, materials dynamics, physical simulations on computers, etc. etc.

      So *AHEM* you were saying?
  • "I realized that the sick-claw was not a knife, but was rather more like the claw of a cat. Cats use their claws to pierce and hold prey, not to disembowel.
    He's obviously never had a catnipped-up cat grab a hold of his forearm with the front claws and use it's back legs to scrape the everlovincrap out of him.
    • Ya, I was always of the impression (I have no formal knowledge of the feline species beyond the one actively declaring ownership of the recliner atm) that cats latch with their fronts and drive with their back legs slicing. Now in fairness, considering raptor frontals would (likely) not have the same kind of usage as a cats forepaws, we may just be derailing this topic for the sake of talking about cats! :D
    • Nor had the heart and feet of a velociraptor's prey left at the foot-end of his bed after every other part of the victim was eaten )emboweled or disemboweled).
    • by commodoresloat ( 172735 ) on Friday October 21, 2005 @11:30PM (#13850438)
      I recall a long time ago seeing one of those "animals attack" shows and it showed some sort of big cat attacking a much larger prey by running alongside it and pouncing on its belly from underneath and using its legs in a manner similar to what is described above. That sucker was disemboweled, that's for sure.
    • You got modded Funny, but this is actually pretty Insightful (or at least Interesting) =p. I'm going to assume you are talking about a regular domestic cat. I have a Bengal cat, and let me assure you, its serious shit when he does this. I also keep reptiles, which leads me to wonder why pig skin is supposed to be analogous to dino skin.

      Hang on...I'm going to try something...=p

      • ...and yes, I also caught the thing about croc skin as well. Again, why? Not only are crocodiles and herbivorous dinos entirely different lineages, but they also occupied entirely different niches. Skin type varies dramatically from one species of reptile to the next. A scale is not always just a scale.
      • I have a Bengal cat, and let me assure you, its serious shit when he does this.

        I've had cats that do that and it was indeed serious shit...for the cat.
    • by prockcore ( 543967 ) on Saturday October 22, 2005 @12:10AM (#13850596)
      He's obviously never had a catnipped-up cat grab a hold of his forearm with the front claws and use it's back legs to scrape the everlovincrap out of him.

      Everyone knows a cat's claw is Piercing+1, Slashing-5 sheesh

      Seriously though. Look at the cat scratch, it's not a clean cut, it's similar to if you got scratched by a pointy stick, not a razor. If the claw went deeper it wouldn't move because only the point is sharp, not the edge.
      • by cab15625 ( 710956 ) on Saturday October 22, 2005 @02:38AM (#13851015)

        OK, so we're talking about the difference between surgically slicing the abdomen open with a scalpel vs. ripping the abdomen open. In the end, what's the difference? Either way, you still end up with guts on the floor.

        Someone else pointed out that this isn't generally how cats kill, and I'd have to say they're right, generally. I have, however, witnessed my cat slaughter a teddy-bear in this manner (she'd had a hard day, she'd gotten herself trapped in the closet and then had a bit too much catnip and the bear just looked at her kinda funny that one time too many and something in her just snapped). Doesn't matter how dull those hind claws are, the legs they're attached to are pretty f**king powerful and that kicking is pretty damned effective.

  • They used a reconstructed claw, let me see a test with a real claw and then get back to me. As much as they'd like to say it couldn't happen, unless they use the real deal, take the results with a grain of salt :)
  • From TFA... (Score:5, Funny)

    by The Amazing Fish Boy ( 863897 ) on Friday October 21, 2005 @10:48PM (#13850256) Homepage Journal
    "Our study shows that the claw was used as a climbing crampon. It allowed the dromaeosaurs to hook themselves on to the flanks of their prey: when the prey turned, so too was the attacker," Manning told Discovery News. He continued in a puzzlingly forced manner, "Yes. We truly have nothing at all to fear from what I am sure are very friendly dinosaurs. We should trust that any dinosaur attacks are certainly not imminent. Nothing to fear whatsoever."

    Questioned on the claw marks in his back, Manning replied, "What? Oh that. Yes. Haha. Silly me, I must have walked into a door. Yes. Nothing to fear whatsoever."
  • "Sure your scientists set up this elaborate demonstration because they could but they never stopped to think if they should!!!"

    Also why is it every time a paragraph ends with "This is very important" usually isn't at all?
  • by NanoGator ( 522640 ) on Friday October 21, 2005 @10:51PM (#13850270) Homepage Journal
    "I realized that the sick-claw was not a knife, but was rather more like the claw of a cat. Cats use their claws to pierce and hold prey, not to disembowel."

    Right now I'm sitting here with a 2 inch long scratch on my tum... uh.. stom.. uh.. crap factory because last night my clutzy-ass-cat took a swipe at the cord to my sweat pants.
  • Not gonna lie. "Bored Scientists" isn't quite as interesting as "Bored Sorority Girls" or whatever. Seriously, why would anyone do this? I mean, if I donated to their organization, I'd stop the checks. Go cure cancer or something.

    **Wild mood swing brought on by caffeine**
    • Oh, for God's sake. This is excellent science; it's very rare that scientists in an observational science (such as paleontology) get the chance to do such elegant experimental work, and they should be applauded for finding a way to do so.
      • Yes, I understand that, but "British scientists at the University of Manchester were apparently bored and decided to find out, once and for all, if the Velociraptor was as mean as Jurassic Park would like everyone to think." doesn't really do it as a motivation to do research for me. Obviously, this was a joke, and shouldn't be taken seriously, just like my post.

        Not to mention, it's sort of hard to say what a real raptor did by using a robotic model based on what we assume is the correct muscle structure
    • Re:yeah, um (Score:5, Funny)

      by The Amazing Fish Boy ( 863897 ) on Friday October 21, 2005 @11:14PM (#13850362) Homepage Journal
      Go cure cancer or something.

      Uh huh. Look, I'll be honest with you. I'm not sure paleontologists are able to cure cancer. I know. It comes as a shock to most people. We've all heard the tired old argument that dinosaurs died from cancer, and that the cure to cancer is in their magical dinosaur bones, but I just don't buy it. And frankly until someone proves it, I don't think much effort is going to be put into forcing paleontologists by whip and chain to cure cancer. I'm sorry that you had to hear this from me.
      • I think the grandparent post was actually suggesting that palentology itself is a big waste of time. As such, all I can say is thank god we live in a free society where scientists are not forced to work on what is considered "most useful" by the powers that be.
      • Re:yeah, um (Score:3, Funny)

        by azhyd ( 743938 )
        This is indeed a delightful reply. I'd like to know the current job of the grandparent when he's back from hiding in shame.
      • Re:yeah, um (Score:4, Funny)

        by Dasher42 ( 514179 ) on Saturday October 22, 2005 @12:26AM (#13850663)
        Uh huh. You just make those limp excuses for the paleontologists. Some runner at a marathon is going to totally blow by you and find that cure, and then they're going to be digging up paleontologist bones with their petrified feet planted firmly in their mouths. ;)
  • "Velociraptor Considered Harmless"
  • Geek Fight (Score:2, Insightful)

    by eluusive ( 642298 )
    "His work is very important,"
    I fail to see how it's important what a dinosaur did period. Great it punctured, big deal, they aren't around now anyways. This is about as important as two geeks debating spiderman vs batman who would win?
  • by Joe Ego ( 53541 )
    "His work is very important,"

    They must know something we don't: such as when they're planning on turning Euro-Disney into Jurrasic Park.
  • by Greyfox ( 87712 ) on Friday October 21, 2005 @11:00PM (#13850303) Homepage Journal
    Because now we all know that the next time we encounter a velociraptor we do not have to fear disemboweling. You would not believe how many nights this has kept me up...
    • I hope this doesn't keep you up at night, but all the article means is that the velociraptor would dig his claws deep into your entrails to hold you still while he killed you with his teeth, like a cat killing a mouse. Or like the thing the lives in your closet.

  • by six11 ( 579 )
    It's weird to see this on Slashdot, because I was researching "bio-CAD" about a month ago. The BC guys are not the only ones working on this sort of thing. For example: researchers at Buffalo [] are working on a similar problem.

    Bio-CAD is an interesting field. You can use modeling or reconstruction of what you think an organism was like, and you can sometimes come to a conclusion that doesn't support the currently accepted theory of how something worked. The dromaeosaurs (velociraptor and friends) were amon

  • I don't know about anyone else but I think I would prefer to be disembowled rather than pinned with a claw. Sure disembowling is visually shocking and likely doesn't feel to pleasent it sounds a damn sight better than benning held pinned with a sharp claw while being eaten.

    I mean have you ever seen a cat play with a mouse? It isn't always a quick death. Also if the example of big cats is any guide it doesn't mean it couldn't take down bigger animals either.
  • I realized that the sick-claw was not a knife, but was rather more like the claw of a cat. Cats use their claws to pierce and hold prey, not to disembowel

    Sounds like my ex-wife.

  • by minus_273 ( 174041 ) <> on Friday October 21, 2005 @11:18PM (#13850389) Journal
    Deinonychus would kick thier ass any day!

    shit did i say that out loud..
  • Has anyone ever been disemboweled by a cat? This thread has several mentions of how a cat scratched the poster, but never of how a cat disemboweled them. My cat has never disemboweled me. If we take this further (anything that can scratch can disebowel), I've had a nasty scratch or two courtesy of a nail (or two), but if you threatened to disembowel me with one, I'd laugh. I may receive a nasty puncture wound or two courtesy of your nail, but I'd laugh.
    • I would imagine that if a cat (say a tiger, a large cat, but a cat nonetheless) disemboweled someone, they wouldn't be here to talk about it. A velociraptor was a fair amount bigger than a housecat.
    • I would be very disturbed if someone who had been disemboweled posted on Slashdot. Both that a cat had done so and that they survived. Of course, velociraptors had 3.5" claws, which is a bit longer than most house cats that I've seen, and larger cats can actually disembowel their prey.
    • Tom cats go for each others balls doing that. Nasty.
  • What about their JAWS?
  • by QuantumG ( 50515 ) <> on Friday October 21, 2005 @11:42PM (#13850492) Homepage Journal
    and thinking I could kick the shit out of one of those Velociraptors. They're short, they have short little arms and these long ineffectual tails and they can't turn their heads more than 80 degrees to the left or right. Not to mention the fact that they have poor peripherial vision and can't recognise stationary objects. In particular, when the kids ran into the computer room and hid, thinking the raptors couldn't open the door, but they did, the kids could have kept low, circled around, jumped on the raptor's tail and kicked it in the spine.. it'd be snappin' at em but as long as you stay behind it you'll be fine.. then you could do a wind choke on its prehistoric neck or just snap it Bruce Lee style.

    That's why I really liked Pitch Black. Instead of pitting blood hungry monsters against helpless little kids, they threw in a bad ass human to take em on and, unlike the useless soldiers in Aliens, he actually put up a fight!
    • I've wondered how much dealing with animals is part of the martial arts. Surely the ninja or samurai on a midnight mission has had to deal with the odd dog or two.
      • I learnt ninjutsu when I was a teenager. We learnt how to grapple with dogs. If you pin the front leg of a dog to the ground and yank on the other front leg the chest cavity will split down the middle. It's an instant, although extremely painful, death. I know it's cruel, but when people train dogs to be weapons against you it would be insane not to learn how to defeat them. My Sensei was a partner in a security company. We used to practice on his alsatian. I remember he used to say "anyone hurts my
        • And another way (which I actually did) is when a dog tries to bite you, make a fist. The dog will bite the fist. When it does that, take yoru closed fist and ram it down the throat of the dog. Then rapidly jerk your whole arm downwards.

          The procedure will break the jaw of a dog. Quite easily. I ended up causing a compound fracture on many parts of the jaw bone.

          They had to put down the dog I did that to, but the owner didnt complain.. They were happy I didnt sue.
    • What if you get thrown off it's back, or maybe it topples to the ground and it's 300 pounds land on you? What if the skin is tougher than you realize and it's hard to choke it or get a grip since the neck is wider than a humans?
    • Wait a second, you actually thought you could jump on a raptor and live? Perhaps it MIGHT be possible (if they weren't extinct) with an actual velociraptor (3 feet tall), but not with the ones in Jurassic Pack (Utahraptors I believe). First of all, I don't see where you're getting that they couldn't turn their heads more than 80 degrees, it looks to me more like 180 degrees []. The tail is used as a counter-balance, so it's very flexable and heavy, perfect for a whip. In the movie one of them jumped on a T
      • Pfft. Those dinosaurs were in a zoo man. All they ever hunted was the domesticated goats and cows that the handlers fed them. It's not like they were part of an actual ecosystem and had parents to teach them how to hunt. I'm sure just stomping on their tail would make them run away like the little girlosaurous they are. As for there being two of em, you gotta split em up, take em out one by one. The first velociraptor would be wonderin' where the second one got to and then BAM! got one of them Sun mon
    • by Oligonicella ( 659917 ) on Saturday October 22, 2005 @04:09AM (#13851239)
      So, geeks don't only have unrealistic fantasies and expectations about sex?
  • by damned_mediocrity ( 923503 ) on Friday October 21, 2005 @11:52PM (#13850538) Homepage

    From TFA: The Velociraptor dinosaur... was not as vicious as portrayed. On the contrary, it embraced its victims before its razor sharp teeth went to work...

    Awww, look. He wants to hug me!

  • by krunk4ever ( 856261 ) on Friday October 21, 2005 @11:59PM (#13850561) Homepage
    For those, or maybe it's just me, that didn't know the definition (for some reason I thought it had to do with digestion)

    Disembowelment is evisceration, or the removing of vital organs, usually from the abdomen. The results are invariably fatal. It has historically been used as a form of capital punishment.

    So, I'm guessing from that post and the definition, disembowelment is when the velociraptor sliced you in the stomach, so your guts spill out, which they're claiming here is untrue.
  • by Xiph ( 723935 ) on Saturday October 22, 2005 @12:00AM (#13850564)
    that Hollywood movies don't always get their facts right. It reminds me of the roaring fast-running t-rex which couldn't see stuff when it was standing still. I can understand that Hollywood needs to come up with these things, if something haven't been studied thoroughly. What i don't understand is why we bother reading about whether this uninteresting tidbit of information is true, for the whenever it's been part of a movie.
    • "Yet again scientist realize that Hollywood movies don't always get their facts right."
      since it was based on a book, i think you mean that authors don't always get it right. which is interesting, because that same author is testifying to congress right about now, on the other side of the debate from most scientists
  • All we can be sure of now is that in Velociraptor vs MechaVelociraptor, the robot can't disembowel the original. I hope we never learn whether the original destroy the robot.
  • by Wyatt Earp ( 1029 ) on Saturday October 22, 2005 @12:19AM (#13850631)
    Jurrasic Park misrepresented the Velociraptors.

    Velociraptor has a skull length of 249 mm (9.80 in), a total length of 2.7 m (8 ft 10 in), a hip height of 0.5 m (1 ft 8 in), and weighs 20 kg (45 lb). The 'raptors portrayed there were modelled after a larger relative, Deinonychus. []

  • Maybe they used this extra-long claw for some hitherto unsuspected purpose, like picking their nose?

    Anyway, bad luck, Phil. I guess it's back to the disembowelling board for you.
  • That way it has leverage to disembowel the prey with its hind legs.
  • I wonder how much these claws were used as a sexual display, both to advertise maturity and to threaten potential rivals. Think about it, most of the time when some animal sports some enlarged, prominent body part, it isn't for hunting, but for mating displays.

    Perhaps, way back when, this was merely a giant evolutionary contest to see just who had the biggest claws in the neighborhood...
  • I took nature's most perfect killing machine, and needlessly turned it into a robot.
  • It was on the BBC and the theory (and a fossil which backed it up) was that the claw was ment to peirce the throat as the raptor grabbed onto the dinos face. It works in principle but anything which didn't walk on 4 legs may have made this totally useless.
  • I don't know about the mutant 100 kilo pack-hunting raptors in Jurassic Park... but in real life, velociraptors were like 20 kilos. That's a bit bigger than your average house cat, and might be able to do a little damage to an unsuspecting human, but in the land of dinosaurs, this scary predator would most likely need to be scraped off the bottom of the foot of your average large herbivore.

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