Science

Fossil evidence shows that a dinosaur included mammals in its diet

It has lengthy been identified that a few of the earliest mammals coexisted with the later-period dinosaurs. Now, for simply the second time ever, scientists have documented fossil evidence of a dinosaur having really eaten a type of mammals.

The dinosaur in question was a Microraptor zhaoianus, the fossilized partial skeleton of which was unearthed from a prehistoric lake mattress in what’s now northeast China. Microraptors in common have been feathered carnivorous bipeds which grew to lower than 1 meter (3.3 ft) in size. They lived in the early Cretaceous interval, about 125 to 122 million years in the past.

This newest particular person contained one foot of a mouse-sized mammal inside its rib cage, indicating that the appendage was in the dinosaur’s digestive tract when it died – the precise species of mammal has but to be decided. The fossilized foot was seen by Prof. Hans Larsson from Canada’s McGill University, when he was inspecting museum collections in China. It remains to be unclear whether or not the Microraptor really hunted and killed the mammal, or just scavenged stays that it got here throughout.

The fossilized foot (middle) is about 1 cm (0.4 inches) in length
The fossilized foot (center) is about 1 cm (0.4 inches) in size

Alex Dececci

Paleontologists already suspected that Microraptors had a pretty broad diet, because of the reality that species variety is larger at small physique sizes. In different phrases, Microraptors solely ate animals smaller themselves – which bigger dinosaurs would ignore – and there was a large number of species which match that invoice.

This newest discovery bolsters that idea significantly.

“We already know of Microraptor specimens preserved with parts of fish, a bird, and a lizard in their bellies. This new find adds a small mammal to their diet, suggesting these dinosaurs were opportunistic and not picky eaters,” stated Larsson. “Knowing that Microraptor was a generalist carnivore puts a new perspective on how ancient ecosystems may have worked and a possible insight into the success of these small, feathered dinosaurs.”

A paper on the analysis – which additionally concerned scientists from the University of Alberta, Queen Mary University of London, Mount Mary College, and the Chinese Academy of Sciences – was not too long ago printed in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.

Sources: McGill University, University of Alberta by way of EurekAlert

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