“Very rare find” of a fossil reveals a dinosaur eating a mammal

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

Scientists unearthed the fossil of the tiny feathered microraptor Zhaoianus in 2000, but it was only recently that a researcher made a “very rare discovery” – another animal inside its remains. Professor Hans Larsson of McGill University in Montreal discovered that the fossil actually showed the foot of an ancient mammal just between the ribs.

But don’t worry – researcher David Hone from Queen Mary University of London said ‘it absolutely wouldn’t have been a human ancestor’.

A rendered image of Microraptor zhaoianus. / Credit: Ralph Attanasia III

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

After analyzing the foot of the digested animal, it appears to be a mouse-sized creature tethered to the ground and not a particularly good climber, indicating that the microraptor would likely have abandoned his search high in the trees for an earthly snack. Previous studies of the feathered dinosaur revealed that it consumed birds, lizards and fish.

“It’s so rare to find examples of food inside dinosaurs, so every example is really important because it gives direct evidence of what they ate,” Hone said. “…This study paints a picture of a fascinating moment in time – one of the earliest records of a dinosaur eating a mammal – even if it’s not as scary as anything in Jurassic Park. “

Close-up view of mammal's foot.  / Credit: Journal of Vertebrate Peleontology

Close-up view of mammal’s foot. / Credit: Journal of Vertebrate Peleontology

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

A University of Hone press release said the find clearly shows 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 researchers are unsure whether the small mammal in the raptor’s belly was direct prey or an already dead animal that had been recovered.

Researcher Alex Dececchi of Mount Marty College in South Dakota compared the dinosaur to a house cat, a creature about the same size.

“The microraptor would have been an easy-going animal, but a terror if it came out because it would chase everything from birds in your feeder to mice in your hedgerow or fish in your pond,” Dececchi said.

Dylan Gilmer on the “NFL Nickmas Game”

Early-stage experimental drug aims to restore hearing

Remembering Franco Harris on the 50th Anniversary of the “Immaculate Reception”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *