Millions of years ago, a feathered predatory dinosaur preyed on an unfortunate small mammal the size of a modern-day shrew.
Almost everyone knows the famous images from the movie Jurassic Park, in which terrified characters are chased by terrifying dinosaurs. However, it was unclear for a long time whether dinosaurs actually had mammals on the menu. So far. Researchers have found the remains of a small mammal in the belly of a feathered dinosaur. And that makes Jurassic Park footage perhaps a little less amazing.
In the study, researchers looked at the remains of a feathered dino known as the micro raptor. micro raptor is a well-known dinosaur that was about the size of a crow. The animal had four wings and probably floated from tree to tree. Microraptors lived about 120 million years ago, at the beginning of the Cretaceous, in an ancient forest area of modern China.
This is not the first time that researchers have discussed the remains of micro raptor bows. The studied specimen was first described in 2000. But now passionate researchers have discovered something that everyone had overlooked: the remains of another animal preserved between the ribs. “It’s very rare to find food in a dinosaur’s body,” said researcher David Hone. “Each specimen is therefore very important because it provides direct evidence of exactly what the dinosaur ate.”
Upon further analysis, it turned out to be the eaten leg of a mammal, which was about the size of a modern-day shrew. The bones suggest that this animal lived mainly on the ground and was not a good climber. This is probably also the reason why the predator micro raptor he had aimed at this unfortunate creature and swallowed it unexpectedly.
Moreover, the results suggest that Microraptors had a very varied diet. Previous studies have already shown that this dinosaur ate birds, lizards and fish. Now that researchers have also found evidence of a micro raptor who ate a mammal, it seems obvious that this dinosaur, when it came to its diet, was not so picky and simply ate what was available.
Hunter or scavenger?
For the moment, we still do not know if micro raptor chased his prey, or if he found them already dead. The researchers speculate that it could also be a combination of the two. What is striking is that the mammal discovered in the abdomen is exactly the size of a prey where a predator the size of micro raptor it could be targeting.
Discovery is a milestone. For the first time, researchers have found hard evidence that dinosaurs ate mammals. “Although the discovered mammal is certainly not a human ancestor, it now appears that some of our ancient relatives served as snacks for hungry dinosaurs,” Hone says. “We now know for sure that some dinosaurs fed on mammals, although our discovery is a little less frightening than the picture Jurassic Park paints.”
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