(ORDO NEWS) — Finding a fossil animal with preserved intestines is rare, and Chinese paleontologists are very lucky.
A fossil of a predatory dinosaur fell into their hands: it was a close relative of birds and, most likely, was covered with feathers, but in the structure of the intestine it was slightly different from a crocodile.
Dromaeosaurids , the famous predatory dinosaurs with large curved claws on their hind legs (of the most famous representatives – velociraptor and deinonychus ), for the most part were not huge awesome animals like Utahraptor , but relatively small and nimble, resembling birds.
In the lion’s share of the representatives of the family, the body length was only about one and a half to two meters (which, taking into account the tail and neck, is quite a bit), and these predators weighed 20-25 kilograms.
As a result, they mostly ate rather small prey: their menu included fish, primitive birds, mammals, lizards, frogs, and even large insects.
The new species of dromaeosaurid found in China did not differ from most of its relatives in this respect: it was about one and a half meters from nose to tail, even in comparison with a cat it did not look like a very scary animal. The lizard was given the name Daurlun ( Daurlong wangi ), which means ” Daurian dragon”.
However, it was not the dinosaur itself that turned out to be much more interesting, but its contents: along with the bones, the remains of a decomposed intestine were found, using which scientists were able to restore the internal structure of the dinosaur.
The preservation of the intestines of an animal about 120 million years old is already a remarkable case, but what is even more valuable to paleontologists is that the daurlun belongs to an evolutionary line close to the ancestors of modern birds.
Despite its advanced position on the evolutionary tree of dinosaurs, the structure of the Daurlun’s intestines turned out to be typically reptilian and differed little from the modern crocodile or the previously discovered Spicyonyx , a more primitive predatory dinosaur.
Scientists have come to the conclusion that the digestive system of predatory dinosaurs evolved relatively slowly, beginning to acquire features characteristic of birds just before the separation of birds from their ancestors.
Probably, terrestrial animals, although they had an accelerated metabolism compared to crocodiles, did not need to digest as quickly as modern birds.
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