Featherless vs Feathered Dinosaurs in JP4

There’s a bit of an uproar (sorry, at least I didn’t say ‘ruffled some feathers’) over the decision not to have feathered dinosaurs in Jurassic Park 4. Paleontologists are pissed for the obvious reason, but JP fans argue that Dr Wu created “Theme Park Attractions” that were “based” on incomplete dinosaur DNA, and geared towards public perception of dinosaurs more so than scientific fact. That seems like a copout, but as long as the film opens with Grant giving a keynote over the discrepancy when giving a talk on feathered dinosaurs and a snarky commenter brings up JP we’ll have an answer we can accept (as well as the whole 6 ft tall raptor thing).

Raptor and Human Scale

Pictured (from left to right), a Velociraptor, Deinonychus, average height human, and a Utahraptor, all with “decorative” feathers, since these raptors did not fly like microraptor or archaeopteryx.

I’m not sure I buy into the whole “continuity > accuracy” claim put forward by fans. It’s been 10 years since the last film and 20 since the first. This year’s college freshmen were born after the first film. The current crop of naked 18 year olds were born after the first film. The PG13 year olds for the film’s expected release date were born when the last one came out. They don’t give a crap about continuity, and unless they spent this last weekend watching the 3D release of Jurassic Park, this is going to be the first time they see dinosaurs on screen, and they’re going to be intentionally inaccurate.

I’m not saying they should Lucas up the old films and replace the dinosaurs with fluffy ones, but we’re talking about a new film. I’m going to bet your average movie goer has heard of Dr Grant and Velociraptor, but has no idea what InGen is, or that the park’s dinosaurs are “approximations”.

There’s also a way to let the dinosaurs “evolve” into their more realistic states over the course of 20 years. A current method of genetic engineering isn’t by actually swapping out DNA sequences but by manually inserting proteins into embryos. These environmental factors wouldn’t necessarily be passed on to subsequent generations. Furthermore, the short lifespan and very high isolation of a single island would drive evolution into overdrive. If velociraptor feathers were sexy then the first male to randomly sport them is going to be doing a lot more fathering than the naked males. The only way to justify a crop of all naked dinosaurs, in my opinion, is to somehow make them all female again, and assuming feathers were sexually dimorphic (only males need extravagant sexy plumage). Still, I don’t see why they can’t use that same justification to introduce feathered dinosaurs as males that hadn’t been seen as often earlier.

Microraptor, Archaeopteryx, Human, and Cat to scale

Miroraptor and Archaeopteryx were fully feathered and capable of at least gliding, but were also very small (and probably delicious). At up to 1 kg (2.2 lbs) in weight, they both would be prey to cats. Even the largest fully feathered winged dinosaurs were small enough to climb trees from which to glide. These probably wouldn’t be scary enough for a film and I can understand leaving them out.

Tyrannosaurus is a bit of an unanswered question for now based on its location in the clads of dinosaurs. Spinosaurus definitely didn’t have feathers. Another group of giant scary therapods bigger than Tyrannosaurus also definitely didn’t have feathers.


The Carcharodontosaurs, from the same family as Allosaurus, branched off of the therapods long before feathers started showing up. Ironically for Jurassic park, Carcharodontosaurs had worse vision than T-Rex and may have actually had to rely on movement for tracking small prey (T-Rex had vision like a Hawk, btw). Luckily for humans, they hunted giant suaropods. Unluckily for everyone – they did so in packs. A clan of 5 or so Mapusaurus in a turf war with as many Giganotosaurus would certainly one-up both the Spino vs Rex battle of JP 3 and the dual Rex attacking the mobilelab in TLW.

Argentinosaurus and Mapusaurus

If they’re willing to stick with Carnosaurs and Megalosaurs, there are plenty of featherless terrors to go around without mucking up the science. But really, after 20 years there’s no real reason for naked, 2 meter tall velociraptors. If you don’t want to portray them accurately then don’t portray them at all.