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11 Things You Need To Know About Jurassic World's Dinosaurs, According To The Film’s Dinosaur Expert

Spoiler warning: those Velociraptors aren't actually Velociraptors.

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This is Jack Horner. He's Jurassic Park's resident dinosaur expert.

Matthew Tucker / BuzzFeed

One of the best-known (and often most controversial) paleontologists in the world, Horner has been the main dinosaur adviser for every Jurassic Park film since the original in 1993, including the new Jurassic World. And he didn't just help the filmmakers get the dinosaurs right – Dr. Grant, Sam Neill's character in the first film, was largely inspired by him.

BuzzFeed Science caught up with him in London to get the lowdown on some of the dinosaurs featured in the new film.

1. Velociraptor

Universal

Velociraptor may be one of the most famous dinosaur species in the world, thanks to Jurassic Park. The only problem is that the dinosaurs in the films aren't actually Velociraptors.

"Velociraptor is really a tiny little dinosaur," Horner confesses. The raptors in the films "are really based on Deinonychus, which we didn't think anybody would be able to say."

"The cool thing about Deinonychus is that they're the dinosaur we do actually have evidence for being pack hunters," Horner adds – although even then, some experts aren't 100% convinced. What certainly does seem to be true is that Deinoychus and its relatives were social animals, at least some of the time.

If you want to know what real-life Velociraptors looked like, they were a couple of feet tall and (like many dinosaurs) they had feathers. A bit like a predatory turkey.

2. Triceratops

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Horner's own research had a direct impact on how we see one much-loved creature in the movie. "Triceratops is actually one of the dinosaurs I had to have the artists change," Horner says. "Because we see juveniles in the movie – kids are riding them – and we know that in juvenile triceratops, their horns actually curve backwards. Then as the animal gets older, their horns grow forward. So we had to get the juvenile horns to curve backwards, and the artists did not want to do that..."

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3. Tyrannosaurus rex

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If you've been scared of T. rex ever since it first attacked the cars in Jurassic Park, Horner would very much like to crush your nightmares.

"In real life, my favourite thing about T. rex is that it really wasn't a top predator – it was an opportunist," says Horner. "It probably only ate weak animals, and sick animals, and dead animals. I mean, it's got bone-crushing teeth – teeth that are totally different to any other dinosaur."

But... not so fast. Despite a lot of media attention, the question of whether Tyrannosaurus was a predator or scavenger is actually more of a long-running non-controversy. For decades, Horner has been firmly on Team Scavenger; however, most other paleontologists are on Team Predator (or at least Team It Was Probably Both.) The most comprehensive study of the issue strongly suggests that the arguments for T. rex being a scavenger alone are flawed, while there is plenty of additional evidence that it definitely did hunt other large dinosaurs. So, good news, everybody – T. rex is still absolutely terrifying after all.

Fun fact: Horner's best-known rival in the great was-T. Rex-a-hunter debate, Robert T. Bakker, was rewarded for sticking to his guns by having a thinly-disguised caricature of him featured in Jurassic Park II... being eaten by a T. rex.

4. Pteranodon and Dimorphodon

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Not one but two species of pterosaur (they're not technically dinosaurs, although they're closely related) get to go all Alfred Hitchcock on a crowd of tourists in the movie. Horner admits that both species have been "oversized" for the film; but in case you're worried about being snatched away by a flying reptile, he notes that even at their new larger sizes, they'd still "probably not actually be able to pick up people..."

"The interesting thing about those pterosaurs is that their bones are paper thin," Horner adds. "They have among the thinnest bones of any animals that we know of. I mean it's just extraordinarily thin." How thin is "extraordinarily thin"? One recent study of a pterosaur skeleton found that its sternum had bone walls as thin as 0.06mm in places. Like lots of dinosaurs, and modern day birds, the rest of the bone cavity was filled with air – keeping them light enough that they could get off the ground.

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5. Mososaurus

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The park's new marine attraction is another case that Horner acknowledges that the filmmakers have bumped its size up for the movie – "but then," he adds, "we do keep finding bigger ones and bigger ones."

"The one in the movie is pretty spectacular, and is spectacular because of its size. Whether it'd jump out of the water to eat a shark, though, I don't know..."

(Mososaurs: also not actually dinosaurs, by the way.)

6. Ankylosaurus

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The tank-like, wrecking ball-tailed Ankylosaurs make their full debut in Jurassic World, after a cameo in JP III. "Ankylosaurus is an armoured dinosaur and... er, I don't know what to say about Ankylosaurus," says Horner, a little shamefacedly.

"We don't know very much about them. They've got a very peculiar head; they've got all kinds of strange structures in their skulls, and we have absolutely no idea what they're for. So, it's got a big club on its tail, it's got a bunch of this armour on it... but we think the armour may have actually been for display, not for protection."

7. Gallimimus

The stars of the classic "flocking this way" scene in the original film return for more... well, flocking. "We have found Gallimimus in groups, so while we don't know if they would have herded quite like we see in Jurassic Park, we definitely know that they were social animals," says Horner. "They were very much like an ostrich, and probably one of the fastest dinosaurs. Faster than Velociraptor."

8. Apatosaurus

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These huge sauropods take over the role that Brachiasaurus played in the first films. "One theory on Apatosaurus is that they could snap their tails faster than sound, and produce very loud noises. Nathan Myrvohld, who came up with that hypothesis, thinks thats how they may have actually communicated with one another – by popping their tails."

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9. Parasaurolophus

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The distinctively-crested Parasaurolophus have been a feature of the Jurassic Park universe since that memorable first shot across the park. Horner says: "Parasaurolophus is an interesting duck-billed dinosaur. A lot of people think the tube is some kind of communication device (although other duck-billed dinosaurs that didn't have them could probably communicate just as well.) What's interesting is that the big giant tube on an adult parasaurolophus, if you blow air through it, it produces an infrasound too deep for even us to hear."

11. ...and Indominus rex

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Indominus rex, the big bad of Jurassic World, is not a real dinosaur – it's the hybrid of lots of dinosaurs (and various other creatures) cooked up by the theme park's geneticists. And, of course, by the film's creators, alongside Horner.

"We initially started with a thing called a Therizinosaur," Horner says, "because we wanted a dinosaur with big arms and big claws. And then from there it morphed into all sorts of things... T. rex and [SPOILERS ABOUT SOME OF THE ANIMAL DNA USED TO MAKE INDOMINUS] and Carnotaurus and all kinds of things. Who knows what it is now?"

Indominus has a few extra tricks up its sleeve from the animal kingdom: "The most important thing for me was camoflage, and getting the cuttlefish characteristics – that was the most important thing of all for me," Horner says.

Therizinosaurus, which lived around 70 million years ago, had enormous claws over two feet long on each of its digits.

Despite its fearsome appearance, though, it was probably a herbivore. Which is possibly why the film's makers didn't include as much of it in the Indominus as Horner would have liked.

"I was hoping we'd have more Therizinosaur and less T. rex," he admits. "But in the end, it's always [executive producer] Steven Spielberg who has the final say on what an animal actually looks like."

Jurassic World is in cinemas from today.