Pyroraptor olympius (S/F)

A Pyroraptor in Biosyn Valley

Pyroraptor is a genus of small theropod dinosaur in the family Dromaeosauridae, commonly called the “raptors.” It originated in the late Campanian or early Maastrichtian stages of the late Cretaceous period, about 70.6 million years ago, and is believed to have lived in what is now southern France and northern Spain. Its genus name means “fire thief,” in reference to its discovery, which was partly due to a forest fire. Only one species has been identified, Pyroraptor olympius; the species name refers to Mount Olympe, where it was discovered.

This dinosaur was discovered after a forest fire in 1992 damaged areas around Mount Olympe in the Provence region of France, in La Boucharde of the Arc Basin. This area lies within the Argiles et Grès à Reptiles Formation. Years later, in 2000, the genus and species were named by French paleontologists Ronan Allain and Philippe Taquet. The specimen they used to identify the animal included only the second toe claw of the left foot, but other remains have also been found, including the matching claw of the right foot, a metatarsal, a forearm bone, and two teeth. Remains have since been possibly found in the Vitória Formation and Tremp Group of Spain; these include several digits, a broken piece of metacarpal bone, the right arm’s radius, and two vertebrae (one from the spine, and one from the tail).

Dromaeosaurid remains from Europe are uncommon and usually fragmentary. This makes Pyroraptor a rare and valuable find, aiding in the research of European dinosaur diversity.

This species has been brought back from extinction using ancient DNA recovered from Cretaceous amber samples. Cloned specimens have grown to larger sizes than fossil remains suggest, though it is unclear whether the fossils represent the maximum possible size for this species or if the cloned specimens have been engineered to reach a larger body size. It is generally believed that Biosyn Genetics was the first party to clone Pyroraptor.

Description

Growing to a full length of eight feet (2.43 meters) and a height of 5.57 feet (1.69 meters), the Pyroraptor is slightly smaller than the famous InGen Velociraptor but still grows larger than its fossil counterpart. Only fragmentary remains of this dinosaur have ever been found by paleontologists, but the scattered fossils generally suggest an animal 7.2 feet (2.2 meters) long and 28 inches (70 centimeters) tall at the hips. The larger cloned specimens can attain a weight of four hundred pounds (181 kilograms), while the fossil specimens are believed to have been considerably lighter at 64 pounds (29 kilograms).

The skull is long and narrow, with low nasal ridges and forward-facing eyes and nostrils. The eye orbits are placed lower than most other dromaeosaurs, and have yellow or orange sclerae and vertical slit pupils. Such pupil shape aids in locating prey items amidst tall grasses while hunting low to the ground. Its head has bare skin, similar to certain birds such as vultures and ibises, which likely helps it keep its face clean when eating from a carcass. Teeth are flattened and backward-curving, with finer serrations on the rear than the front. The tongue is pinkish and triangular.

The snout of Pyroraptor is characteristically narrow.

Like all raptors it is a biped, with powerful arms and legs. The strong neck attaches to equally powerful shoulders and the well-developed arms characteristic of raptors. Unlike earlier attempts at cloning theropods, Pyroraptor possesses its full coat of feathers, so the arms possess rounded wings like those of a bird. On the back of its head there is a crest of longer feathers which likely serve a display purpose, while the wing feathers are used during swimming as well as for display. The hands have three functional fingers, each with a sharp claw for grasping. Its fingers and palms are scaly. The legs are quite strong and built to help this animal achieve high speeds while chasing prey or fleeing from predators. As is standard for raptors, the innermost toe bears a hook-shaped claw that allows the animal to puncture and grip things; there are three toes, as this species lacks a dewclaw. In fossil specimens, the largest toe claws are 2.5 inches (6.5 centimeters) long, though in the larger cloned specimens, the toe claws are proportionally bigger as well. The feet are both padded and webbed.

Like the face, the legs and some of the underparts of this raptor are scaly rather than feathered, though the rest of the body has a coat of plumage. Its long tail, which counterbalances the body, makes up about half its length and terminates with a paddle-shaped fan of feathers; this fan is mainly a display feature but also helps it maintain balance. The feathers are mostly red, with light gray or white ones making up the wings and tail fan. Orange feathers form a border between red and gray, while darker gray feathers are interspersed throughout the red. In feathered animals, red coloration is derived from carotenoid pigments in the animal’s diet, so the vibrancy of a Pyroraptor probably indicates how well it is eating. Down feathers, which are shorter and fluffier, are present at the bases of the larger pennaceous feathers. Where the animal has scaly skin as opposed to a feather coat, it is dark gray in color.

Growth

Only the adult has been seen alive, but the growth stages of its relative Velociraptor are well documented. Young raptors are usually able to walk shortly after hatching, with proportionally large heads and shorter snouts; the arms and legs often appear long for their body size. In feathered animals, the hatchlings typically start out with only down feathers, the vaned pennaceous feathers growing in as they age. The color of younger Pyroraptors is unknown at this time, but since they likely hatch with only down feathers, they are likely lighter-colored and less vibrant than adults.

Sexual Dimorphism

At this time sexual dimorphism in Pyroraptor is undescribed.

Habitat
Preferred Habitat

Ancestrally, this animal lived in a warm archipelago, and appears to favor waterways as habitat. A capable swimmer, it can hold its breath for around a minute and can propel itself underwater about as fast as a human can run. In the modern day they have proven capable of acclimating to a wide range of temperatures, even tolerating freezing temperatures in alpine tundras. Their feathers insulate them against temperature extremes. Some sources suggest they travel frequently.

Muertes Archipelago

This species has never been documented in the Muertes Archipelago.

Isla Nublar

This species has never been documented on Isla Nublar.

Mantah Corp Island

This species has never been documented on Mantah Corp Island.

BioSyn Genetics Sanctuary

A population of Pyroraptors inhabits Biosyn Valley, where they live in the sanctuary. They appear to travel around the valley and are mainly seen around its perimeter, kept from leaving by means of their neural implants. In early 2022, at least one was known to inhabit the reservoir above the hydroelectric dam. It was highly territorial in this area, suggesting this was its long-term habitat.

The events of 2022 did considerable damage to the sanctuary, but fortunately the hydroelectric dam was narrowly spared during the incident’s plane crash. With the structure intact and the reservoir still contained, the Pyroraptor habitat was disturbed but not destroyed; this area was also not especially vulnerable to wildfire and so survived the blaze accidentally set by CEO Lewis Dodgson in the ensuing hours. Still, as per protocol, all animals were remotely herded into the emergency containment bunkers underneath Biosyn’s headquarters on the opposite side of the valley from the reservoir. Deleted scenes suggest that at least one Pyroraptor wound up inside the maintenance corridors within the dam during the evacuation. Once the fire was extinguished, the animals were able to return home.

Black market

Although many de-extinct species have turned up in the international black market since 2018, Pyroraptor has not been confirmed among them. Should it be illegally trafficked, there is a good chance it will pass through the Amber Clave night market, one of the largest hubs of trade in the Eastern Hemisphere.

Wild populations

Pyroraptor initially lived in Europe when the continent was an archipelago, particularly inhabiting a large island in the Tethys Ocean called Ibero-Armorica. This island comprised what is now the Iberian Peninsula and France. While fossils of this dinosaur are rare and usually fragmentary, it appears to have ranged over much of the island. Pyroraptor seems to have lived for a relatively short time about 70.6 million years ago before becoming extinct, probably due to changes in its environment. In the modern day, sometime between 2018 and 2022, preserved DNA samples were found in Europe and used to recreate Pyroraptor.

The Department of Prehistoric Wildlife has reported wild Pyroraptors, but the dinosaur appears to be elusive, and as of now no sightings have been reported in specific locations. While these dinosaurs may live somewhere in the world, they stay out of sight and their habitats are unknown.

Behavior and Ecology
Activity Patterns

Pyroraptor appears to be diurnal. It has been seen hunting and defending its territory during the day.

Diet and Feeding Behavior

Like most theropods this animal is a carnivore, and hunts prey by ambush. Padded feet help it to walk quietly. It remains concealed until the last minute, then pounces out at its prey, seizing with its clawed hands and clinging using its sharp toe talons. Once it has secured its prey, the teeth make short work of its victim. Though it normally ambushes prey, it is also quite fast and can chase down a food item if need be. The fan of feathers on its tail help it to balance when it sprints, and it can use the wings of its arms to keep balance when pinning its prey down.

Pyroraptor can hunt alone or in groups, using its social intelligence to coordinate attacks against prey animals larger than itself. Combining their strength and skill, they can cooperate to wound and eventually kill creatures that they would never be able to down alone. Even when solo, Pyroraptors are capable hunters, mainly going after small mammals and dinosaurs in the same size class as themselves.

Their intelligence benefits them in other ways when hunting. When they settle in an area, they memorize details about their environment in order to maintain a home-turf advantage against their prey. It prefers homes with rocky cover and other places to hide, so it can out-maneuver its intended victims; it is also an excellent swimmer, using its wings and webbed feet to propel itself at speed. Tolerant of cold temperatures, it has been known to dive underneath thin ice and pursue prey from below. This allows it to give chase while remaining out of reach, protecting it from injury. When the prey is vulnerable, for example if it falls through the ice, the Pyroraptor will make its move. Wherever it lives, it can use natural elements in its habitat to get the advantage over the animals it preys on.

Some aspects of its diet is implied by its color. In feathered animals, red and orange coloration is attained by eating food with carotenoid pigments. These are produced by plants, algae, bacteria, and certain arthropods. Pyroraptor, like all carnivorous animals, obtains carotenoids from animal fats. Modern species that derive carotenoids from animals often feed on crustaceans and fish, and as Pyroraptor is at home in water, it could easily access these foods.

Social Behavior

Like other raptors, these animals are social and may live in groups called packs. However, they are also able to live alone, making them a bit less social than most of their relatives. Not much is known about their social behaviors, since they have rarely ever been observed, but most raptors have quite complex lives due to their intelligence.

Many features of the Pyroraptor, particularly the red, orange, and light gray hues of its feathers, suggest that they display to each other.

Reproduction

Pyroraptor lays eggs like all dinosaurs. Theropod eggs are usually ovoid, helping to ensure they do not roll away from where the parents place them. Not much is known about Pyroraptor reproduction; its bright colors and display features suggest that it may use visual cues to show off to potential mates. A cloaca houses the reproductive organs. Raptors, like many theropods, tend to be devoted parents and lay eggs in ground nests.

It is not currently known for how long the eggs incubate, but the parents likely use their wings to brood them. Smaller theropod eggs usually incubate for three to six months. Raptors usually grow fairly quickly, capable of hunting for themselves at a few weeks old, and reach full size in a couple years.

Communication

Because it is so elusive, not much is known about how Pyroraptor communicates. It has been heard making territorial calls, which consist of shrill screeches and screams. When being aggressive it will also make guttural growls and snarls. The display features such as its crest, wings, and tail fan are probably used for visual signaling between members of the same species, but these are not well understood yet.

Ecological Interactions

Pyroraptor is a predator, and hunts small to medium animals in its environment. Various mammals and reptiles are common prey items, and it likely eats fish and crustaceans from the waterways it swims in. By preying on these creatures, it regulates their populations and shapes its local ecosystem.

Though it ventures out in search of food, Pyroraptor is otherwise a reclusive animal and is hardly ever seen. It does not seem to share its territory with any other animals, and is highly territorial. Part of the reason it can be seen living in alpine environments, despite originally being native to tropical islands, may be avoidance; it chooses to live in places that potential competitors do not. If it encounters a threat, it will approach slowly while making loud and aggressive vocalizations. It will not immediately attack, but if the intruder does not back down, the Pyroraptor will go on the offense with teeth and claws. Once it has begun attacking, it will not give up until the threat is neutralized.

Cultural Significance
Symbolism

Pyroraptor olympius is named for the mountain in France where its remains were first discovered, and for the forest fire which led to its unearthing. This makes it a clear example of how unpredictable events in nature can yield new scientific discovery. The fossilized remains found so far are quite fragmentary, but the rarity of a European dromaeosaur combined with its exciting name have given it a kind of cult popularity.

In Captivity

Not much is known about the needs of this dinosaur in captivity; so far they are only known to be housed in Biosyn Valley, which was administered by Biosyn Genetics from the 1990s until 2022 and now by the United Nations. Except for during maintenance or large-scale emergencies, the animals are allowed to roam freely within the valley and establish territories for themselves. At least one Pyroraptor made its home around the reservoir held back by Biosyn’s hydroelectric dam, so it would pose a hazard to maintenance workers.

Although the only captive Pyroraptors are held in naturalistic conditions, keeping them in a more traditional captive setting would likely be a serious challenge akin to the notoriously rebellious Velociraptor. Intelligent and social, they have high stimulation needs and problem-solving skills combined with the ability to work as a team. Raptors in general are hard to keep happy in captivity and some question whether it is possible at all. Pyroraptor in particular has a tendency to travel over distance, and Biosyn Valley can only curb its wanderlust using neural implant technology.

Science

This dinosaur is significant to paleontology as one of very few dromaeosaurids found in Europe, fueling debate as to where in the world the dromaeosaurs evolved. Classifying it on the tree of life has proven a challenge. In many studies, it has been placed in a confusingly wide array of locations on the dromaeosaur family tree, and so it is often simply not included in studies. Scientists have considered it a possible member of the subfamilies Dromaeosaurinae or Velociraptorinae, but in the present day, many have also begun to consider it a potential member of the subfamily Unenlagiinae. The unenlagiines may or may not be true dromaeosaurs at all, with some paleontologists placing them elsewhere among the birdlike dinosaurs. Pyroraptor‘s feet and claws are similar to those of South American and African unenlagiines, suggesting an evolutionary relationship. Its teeth, however, are more like those of eudromaeosaurids. Further complicating its classification is the idea that it may not be a genuine species but instead the misidentified juvenile of another European dromaeosaur, Variraptor.

Since being brought back from extinction, Pyroraptor has contributed to scientific knowledge in other ways. While its classification is still up for debate, new aspects of its behavior have come to light, particularly its territorial and hunting patterns. As one of the more genetically unaltered dinosaurs cloned so far, it has been useful in confirming several of the proposed functions of feathers in species that never evolved flight: it uses them for social displays, insulation against temperature extremes, and even to aid in swimming.

Politics

De-extinction has always been a politically contentious subject, especially where predators are concerned. Pyroraptor is still a little-known animal in the modern day, with relatively few specimens reported outside Biosyn Valley; therefore it has escaped the worst of the controversy. Both aggressive and elusive, it may attack people but prefers to avoid them unless it feels its territory is threatened, so how its presence will impact inhabited areas remains to be seen.

Resources

This was one of several species first created after the 2018 Lockwood Estate incident let de-extinct animals and the technology to create them into the wider world. It was probably cloned by Biosyn Genetics, the world leader in de-extinction from 2016 to 2022, and can still be found in the Biosyn Valley research sanctuary. In addition to the valuable information about evolution and ecology this creature yields to paleontologists, it also has significance to modern medicine. Countless pharmaceuticals are derived from living organisms, and with de-extinction, medical science can also reach into the prehistoric past. Before the disaster of early 2022 ended Biosyn’s exclusive access to these creatures, the company was using dinosaurs such as Pyroraptor to derive new medicines to cure all manner of difficult diseases.

Humans value colorful feathers for decorative purposes, and the large red, orange, and gray feathers of Pyroraptor are indeed attractive; however, this animal is so rare that it is unlikely these are commonly seen.

Safety

Fortunately, Pyroraptors are both rare and reclusive, preferring to live in places where people will not encounter them. In fact, the Department of Prehistoric Wildlife reports that the presence of detached feathers may be the only sign that this dinosaur is living in the area. The reason it avoids people, though, is because it is fiercely defensive of its territory and does not tolerate cohabitation. It will challenge and relentlessly attack anything it feels threatened by, including humans. The only safe course of action is to immediately vacate the area and seek shelter if you believe a Pyroraptor to be nearby, and alert authorities. Your hiding place should be someplace secure and readily defensible, and preferably not a feature of the environment; Pyroraptor is adept at using natural elements to its advantage in a fight. It is an ambush predator, so minimize the angles from which it may sneak up on you. A sturdy vehicle or building may be your best bet.

Since this animal is adaptable and known to travel long distances in search of a suitable home, it may turn up in a variety of unexpected places. Habitats that are not amenable to many dinosaurs, such as high mountains or deep water, are no challenge to Pyroraptor. It is a strong swimmer, able to climb using its claws, and well-protected against the cold. This is still not a very well understood species, with experts still researching its behavior, but as with all intelligent animals is is highly unpredictable. Recall many of the survival tactics useful when dealing with Velociraptor.

Behind the Scenes

Pyroraptor was one of the first dinosaurs designed with feathers in the film franchise. It was originally intended to be more birdlike, with as much faithfulness to paleontological knowledge as possible, but Universal studio executives asked for the animal to be redesigned with its skull in particular given a more reptilian appearance. Despite these changes, the feathered skin of the dinosaur was accurately rendered, with Industrial Light & Magic creating an entire new feather animation system to cope with the challenges of making the feathers move realistically as the animal was affected by wind, water, and snow.

Many aspects of the Pyroraptor were heavily influenced by the documentary series Dinosaur Planet, which includes an episode called “Pod’s Travels” involving a Pyroraptor. The animal’s red coloration, swimming behavior, and eight-foot size are all shared between both media. Its size in particular was explicitly said in the documentary to be eight feet long, despite fossils showing a smaller animal.

The Pyroraptor was originally going to have an additional scene in Jurassic World: Dominion in which it appeared in the hydroelectric power system confronting Owen Grady, Alan Grant, and Maisie Lockwood before they went on to capture Beta. However, this scene was cut for pacing. Concept art also showed the Pyroraptor crawling under the surface of the icy lake rather than swimming, using its claws to puncture the ice like a mountaineer’s crampons.