Scientists discover for the first time the remains of a mammal eaten by a dinosaur


22 Dec 2022 07:07 GMT

The predator was the size of a crow, while its prey was the size of a mouse.

A group of scientists has found the first physical evidence that dinosaurs ate mammals. Thus, experts found an undigested leg of an animal that was eaten by a small flying dinosaur in what is now China, according to a study published in Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.

The team of researchers, led by David WE Hone, from Queen Mary University of London (United Kingdom), have discovered the fossilized remains of the mammal inside a microraptor that lived during the Lower Cretaceous period, about 120 million years ago, reports a release of the educational institution.

Flying dinosaurs also used their hind legs as wings.

Microraptors were feathered predatory dinosaurs, capable of active flight, and had four wings.

The dimensions of the specimen found (‘Microraptor zhaoianus’) were similar to those of a crow, it had long feathers on its wings, and most likely it glided from tree to tree, hunting small animals. The fossil was found in the year 2000but only a long time later, scientists discovered a detail that they did not immediately pay attention to: the remains of another animal, preserved between the ribs of the dinosaur.

It was an undigested leg of its prey, swallowed shortly before it died. The bones of the limb are almost completely preserved, and it is estimated that it belonged to an animal of the size of a modern mouse.

Analysis of the bones showed that the mammal spent most of its life on the ground and was not a good climber, making it excellent prey for the tree-dwelling microraptor.

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“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 explained.

“Although this mammal would not have been a human ancestor at all, we can imagine that some of our ancient relatives were eaten by hungry dinosaurs. This study paints a picture of a fascinating moment in time: the first record of a dinosaur eating a mammaleven if it’s not as scary as anything in [la película] ‘Jurassic Park,'” joked the researcher.

Previously, scientists had found bones of birds, lizards and fish in the remains of microraptors. The latest data reveals that this species had a fairly varied diet. However, the study authors note that it is impossible to say for sure whether these dinosaurs hunted animals or were scavengers.

“There is no clear evidence that any of them [animales encontrados en los restos de microraptores] preyed on rather than scavenged, and microraptors likely foraged both ways and in multiple habitats,” the statement said.

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