Scientists have discovered an unexpected lunch in the stomach of a cat-sized dinosaur in a 120-million-year-old microraptor fossil.
Although the fossil was first described in 2000, it harbored an intriguing historical mystery. Re-analysis of the fossil found mammalian foot bones inside the ribcage of an avian dinosaur, and is “the first record of a dinosaur eating a mammal.”
Paleontologists in UK analyzed fossils remains about 120 million years ago, showing a small feathered dinosaur known as a microraptor. with sole of animal inside the chest.https://t.co/HqgU5Gm3Xu
— Shropshire Star (@ShropshireStar) December 21, 2022
The discovery, described Tuesday in the journal Vertebrate Paleontology, is based on an earlier study of a Microraptor zhaoianus fossil found in the Jiufotang Formation in western China.
This fossil is missing the middle part of the body, but the ribcage is visible, and inside it is preserved a small bone of the right foot, less than half an inch in size, and it is in perfect shape.
Early #fossil#birds and close relatives put best foot forward How #flight evolved. Find out how well preserved #legs🦶reveal in advance #theropod flying lifestyle, including a microraptor hawk-like lifestyle 🦅 @NatureCommshttps://t.co/7YZDKddDDA@CUHKScience@CUHKOfficial#LSFrice.twitter.com/woVd75kVCa
— Michael Pittman (@PalaeoPittman) December 21, 2022
Analysis showed that the prey was a mouse-sized mammal that lived on the ground and couldn’t climb.
Microraptors were three-toed, carnivorous dinosaurs that inhabited Earth’s ancient trees and are among the smallest dinosaurs ever discovered. Fossils of various microraptor species demonstrate the presence of long feathers on each limb, which may have been used for stooping.
Dr David Hoon of Queen Mary University of London, first author of the study, said: “It’s very rare to find examples of eating inside dinosaurs, so every example is really important because it provides direct evidence of what they ate. This study paints a picture of a spectacular moment.” time is the first recording of a dinosaur eating a mammal – even if it’s not as scary as anything else in Jurassic Park.”
Microraptors lived in the ancient forests of modern China sometime between 125 and 113 million years ago.
Experts believe that some species may be capable of directional flight by walking on their feet. They were the size of crows or small cats and moved from tree to tree, preying on small animals.
Previous research has shown that other microraptor fossils retained non-mammalian food such as bird, lizard or fish in their stomachs.