First evidence found that dinosaurs ate mammals

(ORDO NEWS) — An international team of researchers has found the first evidence that dinosaurs fed on mammals. Scientists undertook a re-examination of a fossil found more than 20 years ago.

Microraptor zhaoianus was found in China. He is about 120 million years old. Inside the dinosaur fossil, another fossil was found – this is a mammal that the dinosaur ate, but did not have time to digest.

Predatory dinosaurs ate snakes, lizards, birds… It is now known that they did not neglect small mammals either.

An international team of researchers has found the first evidence that dinosaurs preyed on mammals.

In their paper, the scientists describe a re-examination of a fossil found more than 20 years ago.

Scientists studied a microraptor (Microraptor zhaoianus) fossil. It was found in the Jiufotang Formation in western China and has been dated to about 120 million years ago.

Microraptors were three-toed dinosaurs that, like their larger cousins, were carnivores.

They lived in trees and were comparatively small compared to other dinosaurs – about the size of a modern domestic cat. Some microraptor species had feathers that could be used to slither from tree perches.

Mammal hunter

First evidence found that dinosaurs ate mammals 2
A microraptor fossil with a half-eaten mammal
DOI: 10.1080/02724634.2022.2144337
B. close-up of a mammalian foot. C – illustration of visible bones: dark gray – microraptor ribs, yellow – mammalian articulated foot, light gray – unidentified bones.

During the study, scientists discovered that there is another fossil inside the microraptor that once belonged to a small mammal.

The foot of a small mammalian fossil was found behind the ribs, meaning the larger creature was eating a mouse-sized mammal when it suffered its own unfortunate fate.

Dinosaurs ate many small animals, such as snakes, lizards, and birds, but paleontologists have never found evidence of hunting mammals.

The researchers believe that the lack of mammalian remains in dinosaur stomachs is likely due to the rarity of finding any remains of other creatures inside dinosaurs, rather than an indication that mammal-eating was uncommon.

Researchers continue to study the feet of the remains inside the microraptor, but so far have not been able to determine what kind of mammal they belong to.

Scientists note that he had thin toes, like modern opossums, but they were shorter. Another thing is also unclear: the dinosaur pursued and killed the mammal or simply collected carrion.

Scientists recall that feathers were found in some microraptors. Perhaps they also had wings for gliding flight.

This would allow the microraptor to dive down and catch a small creature similar to the one found in its intestines.

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