Skull Island’s pack-hunting Venatosaurus dromaeosaurs have taken the advances and specializations of their Cretaceous forbearers and have developed them to a new extreme. Their keen eyesight, great speed, and sickle-shaped second toe claws they share with their cousins, but Venatosaurus have taken these adaptations and have added a few more to make them even more effective killers. Lumbering V. rexes thunder about Skull Island as brutish, somewhat analogous relics of their long-lost kin. By contrast, the Venatosaurus are a new breed of hunter, the likes of which had only begun to appear in the Late Cretaceous. With 66 million years of evolution behind them, these new predators have time to sharpen their killing tools to an unparalleled edge.
Mobile hips allow the legs to swivel out farther from the body than any other dromaeosaur. While this flexibility is a tradeoff that lowers the animals’ top speed, it affords Venatosaurus vastly superior agility and flexibility (traits more valuable than a winning straight-line sprint in the labyrinth jungle). Their nimble hip joints permit them to crouch at ground level, their stomachs touching the ground, yet still be poised to pounce at a moment’s notice. This adaptation permits the large hunters to make use of surprisingly low cover when preparing an ambush.The eyes are positioned high on the head, allowing a Venatosaurus to peer over cover while still remaining almost completely hidden from potential prey like Dinocanisaurus. The pupils are catlike, slit and able to dilate to let in more light when hunting in the unbroken shade beneath the great trees.
The ribcage of a Venatosaurus is reduced in length, but deepens, granting more flexibility at the waist with no reduction in lung capacity (a trait more commonly found in mammals). The deeper profile wields more muscle attachment, increasing strength to the arms and a more powerful grip on struggling prey.
Venatosaurus are found throughout the heavily forested regions of Skull Island. They prefer the dense jungle to the open stretches because it affords them more cover during hunts and ample concealment for their own nests and young. Packs with territory bordering the forest edge will sometimes make sorties into the open lands to hunt, but usually only under the cover of darkness. Diurnal V. rexes will kill a Venatosaurus if they are ever to catch one. However, by sticking to the jungle, the smaller predators avoid competition and danger.
Venatosaurus are intelligent and social hunters, living in small packs of 6-12 adults with their young. Coordinating their hunting sorties with impressive cunning, packs have developed specific techniques for tackling potentially dangerous prey animals at minimum risk. Venatosaurus is the only predator species that actively preys on adult Brontosaurus. No other predator on the island, including the mighty V. rexes, can match the size of the prey they bring down. Packs split, certain members strategically revealing themselves to panic and stampede a Brontosaurus herd in a predetermined direction. Flankers take up the chase, molesting the giants onto a course they have selected; across dangerously broken ground, over bluffs, or into dead ends. Injury or death among the herd lays meat upon the Venatosaurus’ table, rewarding their cunning with rich bounties of carcasses large enough to feed a pack for a week or more.
In addition to the giant Brontosaurus, almost any midsized or large jungle herbivore might find itself on their menu, including any of the ceratopsians, like Ferrucutus and tree-tops, and the blade-backed Asperdorsus. A brave Venatosaurus might even occasionally try its luck with a Diablosaurus, a Kong, or a Calcarisaurus.
Their strong social structure is key to Venatosaurus’ success. Meaningful communications between individuals allow for the level of coordination employed in their hunts, but also minimize inefficient competition and conflict within the pack.
An alpha breeding pair dominates the pack, but breeding is not restricted to them. Chicks born into the strict hierarchy inherit the rank of their parents.
Venatosaurus chicks are born live and are cared for by the whole pack. Food is brought to them in their excavated nest, usually under the roots of a large tree, until they are old and strong enough to follow the pack on a hunt. At all times the young are guarded by a low-ranking escort. This sentry will remain at the nest site when the rest of the pack hunts.
A single Venatosaurus pack ranges over a large territory with well-defined borders. Tree-scraping and regular marking with feces reinforces these borders with rival packs. Where territory is contested, posturing and noisy displays are usually enough to defuse tensions and resolve the matter. Rarely does a border dispute turn violent.A regular on the menu for Venatosaurus, and a most curious member of the Skull Island menagerie, is the Skull Island gaur. The bovines' long curving horns and mass make them worthy adversaries
Relationship with Young V. RexesOn a gang of hungry, young V. rex toughs, the subtle posturing and warning hoots of a Venatosaurus pack defending a kill are lost and conflict is inevitable. Unseasoned in the art of sizing up opponents, young V. rexes often bare injuries sustained in contest with the dangerous Venatosaurus, and deaths are not unheard of when clumsy challenges over food go awry.
Scenting Venatosaurus chicks in a nest, a gang of premature V. rexes might also attempt to bully a lone sentinel off guard duty to get to the chicks, only to be surprised by the rest of the pack returning in response to the guard’s alarm calls.
Skeletal AdaptationsVenatosaurus are lean killing machines with bodies built to combine speed, power, and agility. Their bones are slim and hollow to cut down on superfluous weight, but honeycombed to keep them strong and durable. Their heads are tapered and narrow, rowed with slender teeth, edged like razors but rigid and tough for thrusting into thick herbivore hides.
The crumbling pre-native ruins dotting Skull Island create unusual landscapes that Venatosaurus have learned to use to their benefit. Calculating intellect is perhaps the genus’s most lethal weapon, surpassing even their teeth and claws. Herding prey, such as Brontosaurus, down what must once have been streets and into cul-de-sac courtyards, hunting packs make use of the alleyways and channels between buildings to afford them ambush sites and parallel paths to outrun and outflank intended victims once a chase has begun. These tactics require fewer hunters to accomplish the same job. Broken ground and gulches created by the ruins make effective traps for Venatosaurus to drive prey into for slaughter.
Lethal CousinsAs if one variety of lethal Venatosaurus is not enough, Skull Island is home to a second, closely related species, Venatosaurus impavidus. Smaller than Venatosaurus saevidicus, Venatosaurus impavidus is no less impressive a predator and scavenger. Distinguished by their striped brown coloring and blue-tipped tails, these lithe hunters tend to favor the dark valleys and ravines, often hunting along the river ways, where Skull Island gaurs and Ligocristus are concentrated. At half the weight of the bigger V. saevidicus, V. impavidus is also able to use arboreal routes, springing silently along overhanging, mossy boughs and logs, when sneaking up on prey.
Better lowlight vision makes them effective twilight hunters, using the changing light to catch prey at their most vulnerable, either taking daylight herbivores as the light fails or savaging nocturnal prey still at a disadvantage in the half-light.
Their bright blue tails are used in sexual displays. More vividly colored individuals seem to be most sought after as mates.
If ending up too far down into the ravines and chasms, it can be prey itself to such giant invertebrates as Carnictis.
Body Language and BehaviorVenatosaurus have nimble fingers and remarkable dexterity with their grasping front claws. Unique among dinosaurs, they use their hands to manipulate their environment to their advantage. When crouching behind cover, Venatosaurus will reposition the obscuring vegetation to better hide themselves and create openings through which to spy.
During courtship, females signal their interest or indifference through sinuous raised tail waving or dropping and facing away. Males announce their affection by strutting with hands clasped at the chest and high tail-flicking.
Aggressive displays toward rival Venatosaurus or other threats are usually accompanied by screeching and ground-scraping. Displaying Venatosaurus will hold their tails high and rigid, their front claws extended and flexing while they ruck up the earth around them with their long, curved toe claws.
Similar to the threat dance is the dominance pose. Screeching or scraping will follow; should the correct submissive response not be forthcoming. Submissive individuals crouch, their heads bowed and their tails dropped. The front claws are held close to the body in a nonthreatening manner.