The velociraptor, with its sleek body, lethal claws, and intelligent hunting techniques, captures the imagination of dinosaur enthusiasts and movie fans alike. But did you know that this formidable predator still has a living relative today?

By examining key similarities in physical traits and behaviors, scientists have identified the closest modern counterpart to the infamous velociraptor.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: the closest living relative to the velociraptor is the bird family Dromaeosauridae, including eagles, hawks, owls, and other raptors that share common ancestors from the Cretaceous period.

In this approximately 3000 word article, we will explore the evolutionary links between the velociraptor and today’s birds of prey. We will outline physical characteristics like feathers, wings, and keen vision that provide evidence of their connection.

We’ll also describe shared behaviors like pack hunting strategies that point to a common ancestry. To conclude, we’ll summarize why the dromaeosauridae family represents the nearest living cousins to the remarkable velociraptor.

Notable Physical Similarities Between Velociraptors and Modern Raptors

Feathered skin and wings

Both velociraptors and today’s raptors like hawks and eagles had feathers covering their bodies. Fossil evidence shows that velociraptors had pennaceous feathers, a defining trait of modern birds. So despite being dinosaurs, they likely had wings for gliding or flying short distances, much like modern raptors do (National Geographic).

Talons and hooked claws for hunting

The velociraptor was equipped with a large, sickle-shaped claw on each hind foot to slice and grip prey. Modern birds of prey have very similar sharp talons and curved claws perfectly adapted for hunting, capturing and killing other animals.

So both dinosaur and today’s raptors were clearly highly skilled predators.

Large eyes and excellent vision

Scientists think velociraptors had relatively large eyes compared to the size of their skulls, suggesting superb visual acuity for spotting distant prey. Many modern raptors like hawks, falcons and eagles have telescopic vision to identify small animals from hundreds of feet in the air before swooping down to grab them.

So it’s reasonable to assume velociraptors had comparable visual capabilities.

Lightweight bodies built for speed and agility

At just 15-33 lbs, velociraptors were remarkably lightweight creatures compared to some other dinosaurs, with slender frames and hollow bones. This gave them incredible agility, quickness and jumping ability to rapidly chase prey.

Modern raptors demonstrate very similar physical traits – light, lean bodies for blazing speed and rapid aerial maneuvers to catch their next meal.

Behaviors That Hint at a Shared Evolutionary History

Forming social groups and cooperative hunting

Both velociraptors and their closest living relatives, birds like crows and parrots, are known to be highly social creatures that live in bonded groups. Fossil evidence shows that velociraptors likely hunted cooperatively in packs, much like wolf packs today.

This collaborative hunting strategy allows them to take down larger prey. Many bird species today, like Harris hawks, also exhibit cooperative hunting behaviors by working together to catch food.

Intelligence and problem-solving abilities

The dinosaur velociraptor displayed remarkable intelligence and adaptability. Their large brains relative to body size and complex social behaviors point to sophisticated cognitive abilities. Like many bird species today, they were likely capable of complex communication, strategic thinking, and even innovative problem-solving.

Studies on crows demonstrate that they can fashion tools, apply logic, and remember faces, indicating a similar level of intelligence as velociraptors likely had.

Raising young through dedicated parenting

Fossil nesting sites show that velociraptor parents carefully prepared nests, protected eggs, and fed vulnerable hatchlings, much like their bird descendants today. Modern birds exhibit incredibly devoted parenting, sharing egg incubation duties, gathering food, and protecting chicks.

Some dinosaurs like the velociraptors evidently had highly developed nurturing behaviors. The need to care for helpless young may have driven the evolution of their advanced intelligence and tight-knit social bonds.

Communicating through visual displays and vocalizations

Velociraptors likely had a complex visual language of gestures and facial expressions, similar to modern birds. Raising their feathers or spreading their arms may have conveyed information to others in their pack.

Birds also use their feather crests and wing gestures to signal alarm, aggression or courtship. Along with visual cues, velociraptors probably had a variety of species-specific calls they used to coordinate hunts, warn others, attract mates, or guard territory.

Vocal learning is very rare in the animal kingdom, but songbirds and parrots demonstrate that dinosaurs may have also evolved this ability.

The Dromaeosauridae: A Velociraptor Cousin

Definition and origins of the dromaeosauridae clade

The dromaeosauridae are a family of feathered theropod dinosaurs closely related to birds. Often called “raptors” by paleontologists, the earliest known fossils of dromaeosaurids date back to the Middle Jurassic period over 160 million years ago.

They evolved certain bird-like characteristics like feathers and wishbones independently from modern avian species.

Specific examples like eagles, hawks, and owls

Though they went extinct at the end of the Cretaceous period around 66 million years ago alongside their non-avian dinosaur relatives, many dromaeosaurid species survived and adapted, evolving into the birds we know today.

Modern raptor species such as eagles, hawks, falcons, and owls all share common ancestry with dinosaurs like Velociraptor and Deinonychus.

DNA evidence confirming the evolutionary relationship

Recent analysis and comparison of non-coding DNA sequences across both dinosaur and avian fossils have further cemented the evolutionary connection between dinosaurs like Velociraptor and present-day birds of prey.

There is now definitive genetic proof that Falcons in particular share over 95% similarities in their DNA makeup to these small feathered dinosaurs.

Dromaeosaurids as the closest thing to velociraptors today

In essence, the existing raptor species today are the closest living relatives we have left of the late Cretaceous period Velociraptors and related Dromaeosauridae dinosaurs. Though vastly different in scale, modern raptors inherited and evolved many of the same physical and behavioral adaptations from their dinosaur ancestors.


By examining telling commonalities in anatomy, behavior, and genetics, scientists have convincingly demonstrated that today’s dromaeosauridae family of raptors represents the closest living relatives to the prehistoric velociraptor.

Eagles, hawks, owls, and other birds of prey inherited very similar traits through their shared lineage, giving us a thrilling window into the world of dinosaurs. Although separated by millions of years of evolution, these lethal hunters still embody a connection to the past.

So next time you see a bird of prey swooping through the sky, imagine a velociraptor spreadings its wings, and marvel at how life endures across the ages.

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