“Very rare discovery” reveals one of the first records of a dinosaur eating a mammal

"Very rare discovery" reveals one of the first records of a dinosaur eating a mammal
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200-million-year-old dinosaur footprints found

Dinosaur footprints found on a Welsh beach may be 200 million years old, researchers say


It’s not uncommon for scientists to discover new fossils from the age of the dinosaurs, but every once in a while, a discovery reveals much rarer information.

Scientists unearthed the fossil of the tiny, feathered microraptor zhaoianus in 2000, but only recently has a researcher caught a “very rare discovery”: another animal inside its remains. Professor Hans Larsson of Montreal’s McGill University found that the fossil actually showed an ancient mammal’s foot right between the ribs.

But don’t worry, researcher David Hone from Queen Mary University of London said it “absolutely would not have been a human ancestor.”

A rendered image of Microraptor zhaoianus.

Ralph Attanasia III

Microraptors lived in the forests of what is now China about 120 million years ago. They were about the size of a crow, with long feathers, and are believed to have slithered through the trees to hunt small game. But that’s what makes this particular finding so interesting, the researchers said.

After analyzing the foot of the digested animal, it appears as if it were a mouse-sized creature tethered to the ground and not a particularly good climber, indicating that the microraptor would likely have given up its treetop search for a snack. land. Previous studies of the feathered dinosaur have revealed that they consumed birds, lizards, and fish.

“It’s very rare to find examples of food inside dinosaurs, so each example is really important as it provides direct evidence of what they were eating,” Hone said. “…This study paints a picture of a fascinating moment in time, one of the first records of a dinosaur eating a mammal, even if it’s not as terrifying as anything in Jurassic Park.”

Close view of mammal foot.

Vertebrate Peleontology Journal

The research was published in the Vertebrate Peleontology Journal on Tuesday.

A press release from Hone’s University He said the find makes it clear that this particular type of dinosaur had a “diverse diet and was not a specialist in any given option.” However, the university also noted that the researchers are not sure whether the small mammal in the raptor’s belly was direct prey or an already-dead animal that had been scavenged.

Fellow researcher Alex Dececchi of South Dakota’s Mount Marty College compared the dinosaur to a house cat, a creature about the same size.

“Microraptor would have been an easy animal to live with, but a terror if it got out, as it would hunt everything from the birds in your feeder to the mice in your hedge or the fish in your pond,” Dececchi said.

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