Unethical Website Of The Month: Only Dinosaurs

I’ve seen weirder websites, but not many.

Only Dinosaurs is the website of the “Custom Animatronic Dinosaur Manufacturing Expert,” which describes itself as providing “cost-effective realistic animatronic dinosaur manufacturing services from China.” You can get instant online quotes in minutes, orders in days! But that’s not the reason the site is unethical.

The amount of mistaken and confused information the public gets on the web ranges from harmless to deadly, and Only Dinosaurs has managed to perpetrate some that I never thought was information at all.

The site has a page called “The Top 15 Friendliest Dinosaurs.” It begins with this fifth grade English exposition (I’m guessing the whole site is translated from Chinese, and none too well at that):

If you’ve watched the movie, “Jurassic Park,” you might probably believe that all dinosaurs are big and scary, and they all eat humans. That’s not particularly true. So, if you find yourself really scared of dinosaurs, I have news for you — not all dinosaurs are mean and scary. In fact, some of them are actually pretty friendly and downright cute. So, enough about the T-Rex; let’s have a look at some of the friendliest dinosaurs ever. The tip here is, if the dinosaur is an herbivore, then it’s probably going to be a friendly one since it’s not after blood. However, you can’t risk guessing it right? Therefore, here is a quick list first so you can take them all in:

Whoever wrote that hadn’t seen “Jurassic Park,” which is remarkable for a site that sells animatronic dinosaurs, since the movie represented the most successful and influential use of animatronic dinosaurs of all time. The movie doesn’t present all dinosaurs as “big and scary’: some are presented as big and harmless (the Brachiosurus; the Triceratops), and others are presented as not-so-big and deadly (the Dilophosaurus that eats “Newman,” though the actual beast was larger and a “veggiesaur.”) What does “not particularly true” mean? The statement that all dinosaurs were “big and scary” is definitely not true. Then the passage starts to sound like the writer believes dinosaurs are still around, but that’s okay, it’s all in fun, presumably. Nevertheless, presuming to know which dinosaur species were “friendly” is bonkers. No paleontologist has ever claimed to have discovered that from the fossil record, because the temperaments of prehistoric animals is unknown.

I know a few vegetarians who I wouldn’t want to have angry with me: might the giant, plant-eating Diplodocus have been similarly ill-tempered and enjoyed stomping on smaller creatures that annoyed it? There’s no evidence one way or the other. However, we do know that #6 on the website’s list of the 15 friendliest dinosaurs isn’t just wrong, but hilariously and unforgivably wrong: the Velociraptor.

While the proper Velociraptor was definitely much smaller than the “Jurassic Park” version (the dinosaurs called “Raptors” in the movies were identical to Deinonychus, essentially a giant Velociraptor stuck with a name the scriptwriters felt was too tricky to use), friendly they were not. “Pound-for-pound, Velociraptor was the champion predator among the dinosaurs,” is how Prof Steve Brusatte, a palaeontologist at the University of Edinburgh, describes the beast. “It was small, much smaller than usually shown in films and documentaries, just about the size of a poodle, and not one of those big poodles, but a miniature poodle. But it was feisty, and fast, and brainy. There’s nothing quite like Velociraptor alive today, but I imagine it as a hybrid of a wolf and a cassowary.”

Why would, and how could, the website of a company in the business of making realistic dinosaur models, puppets, robots and costumes include something that obviously wrong? The ethics breaches here are incompetence as well as failure of responsibility. When I saw the Velociraptor on the list at #6 (meaning that supposedly the next nine “friendliest” dinosaurs were even less friendly than one of the nastiest creatures ever to prowl the Earth), I didn’t bother to check the rest of the list.

I knew that it had been compiled by inept boobs who didn’t know what they were talking about and didn’t check their facts. It is especially annoying to have such a list introduced with “you can’t risk guessing it right?” Right! You can’t risk guessing, and you can’t risk trusting a dinosaur company’s website that assures you that raptors were friendly, or you might end up like Vincent D’Onofrio in “Jurassic World”…

The sloppiness is especially inexcusable because Google bots picked this up and presented “What were the friendliest dinosaurs?” as a supplement to a completely unrelated search of mine with a link to the “Only Dinosaurs” page as the “answer.” Bad websites make the public more ignorant, and Google is complicit.

11 thoughts on “Unethical Website Of The Month: Only Dinosaurs

  1. By not finishing the list, you missed this perplexing description (I particularly liked the final two sentences):

    The Pachycephalosaurus is one of the best dinosaurs that ever lived. The pachycephalosaurus is a very thick dinosaur that lived in modern-day North American cities like South Dakota, Wyoming, Montana and Alberta, millions of years ago. It had a very thick skull of up to 9 inches, and it is so thick its name literally means “thick-headed” lizard. It was a herbivore and survived by eating plants. The Pachycephalosaurus likes to ram things with its head. Thank goodness it was friendly.

    And whether something will want to eat you is a bad measure of friendliness. A hippo is not likely to eat you, but they are some of the most dangerous animals you can be around if they have a problem with you.


    • Indeed, there are plenty of present-day herbivores you should be very cautious around. Buffalo (both bison and non-bison varieties), moose, rhinos, elephants, and of course hippos. So many people get injured or killed by big herbivores they thought were safe to approach it’s ridiculous.

    • The Pachy is a major player in the 2nd Jurassic world movie, and was a stand-in for a rhino—a good comp—in “The “Lost World’s” dino wrangling scene, which Spielberg deliberately lifted from “Hatari!”

      Rhinos aren’t exactly “friendly” either.

  2. Dilophosaurus was indeed bigger than depicted in the movies, but all evidence suggests they were carnivorous (no evidence for frills or venom though).

    There’s an interesting story behind the velociraptor size issue. The original velociraptor, part of the dromaeosaurid family, came up to a grown man’s knee. In the Jurassic Park novel, Crichton made them about the size of deinonychus, which came up to a man’s waist, and was the largest known dromaeosaurid at the time of the book’s publication. Spielberg wanted the raptors even bigger for the movie. There’s a book called “Raptor Red” written by paleontologist Robert Bakker, who was an unofficial consultant for the movie. In the introduction, he tells how one morning he had a conversation with one of the dinosaur effects people on the film production, who was aware of the unrealistic raptor size. Bakker had told him that such a relatively minor size leap wasn’t IMPOSSIBLE. “Yeah, but we don’t have the fossils.”

    That afternoon on the same day he got a call from a colleague in Utah who was excited about finding raptor bones that were bigger than any previous dromaeosaurid discovered. The size estimate came out almost exactly the size of what the biggest raptor in the movie was supposed to be. Bakker told him, “You found Spielberg’s raptor!” and the guy didn’t know what he was talking about, because the movie hadn’t come out yet. So the bones were found just in time to justify the Jurassic Park raptor size increase.

    • Thanks for this. I remembered that story about “Spielberg’s raptor,” but couldn’t find it quickly, so left it out of the post. Of course, every time a significant larger bone belonging to any dino species is found, it raises the question of whether it was a separate species of just a freakishly big individual. I went to a lecture by a paleontologist at the Smithsonian years ago, and he showed us a T-Rex claw from one of those tiny arms. It was about 4 or five inches long. “No I find this troubling,” he said. “If that’s a T-Rex claw, and they were about 40 ft, what the hell was attached to THIS?” And he pulled out what looked like an identical claw, except it was more than a foot long.

  3. One of the things I appreciated about the original Jurassic Park movie (which is actually the only one I’ve seen) was that it managed to be a fairly scary movie without resorting to a lot of on camera gore. The folks getting eaten generally were polite enough to do it off screen. I imagine it takes more effort to do it that way, but I think it yields a better product. Our imaginations can run rampant when they are not constrained by explicit images.

    Regarding ‘friendly’ dinosaurs, I’m not so sure it matters if they step on me, perhaps without even noticing I am there.

    And dinosaurs living in the towns of Montana and Wyoming — what state are those towns in? Did they put up statues or plaques to commemorate their former townie-osaurs? Maybe we should check the criminal court dockets to see just how friendly they really were.

    • The genius of the original Jurassic Park was that Spielberg managed to make it appropriate for kids and still smart enough for adults. The goriest effects were Samuel Jackson’s severed arm and the lawyer getting eaten, but there was little blood in the movie, and the next five installments all held to the tradition established in the first film.

  4. How does Professor Steve Brusatte know what the temperament of a dinosaur is any more than the morons at onlydinosaurs.com? I’ll give him “fast”, because that can be inferred from the skeleton. “Brainy” is pure speculation. Brain size doesn’t have a direct correlation to intelligence. “Feisty”? Really, Steve?

    I’ve known incredibly smart, tiny chihuahuas whose brains were undoubtedly much smaller than a really dumb mastiff of my acquaintance. But looking at their skulls and trying to infer anything about the behavior of those dogs would inevitably lead you to an incorrect conclusion as to which one was smarter.

    Do we have any evidence that Velociraptor was one of the “nastiest creatures to ever prowl the earth”? Cats are vicious predators that actively torment their prey and sometimes even kill purely for amusement. They also can be loving, cuddly pets. I have one that’s both, as is evidenced by her greeting me at the door yesterday, purring and sweet, seconds before I discovered the bloody mess of a decapitated rabbit more than half her size that she had dragged into the kitchen through an open window. How much of that could someone decipher from her (likely partial) skeleton 60 million years from now?

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