A ‘very rare find’ reveals one of the first records of a dinosaur eating a mammal

Dinosaur tracks 200 million years old have been found

Researchers say dinosaur footprints found on a beach in Wales may be 200 million years old.


It’s not uncommon for scientists to discover new fossils from the ages of dinosaurs, but every now and then, a discovery reveals very rare information.

Scientists discovered the tiny, feathered fossil of zhaoianus in 2000, but only recently did one researcher make a “very rare find”—another animal inside its remains. Professor Hans Larsson of Montreal’s McGill University found that the fossil actually showed the foot of an ancient mammal between the ribs.

But don’t worry, researcher David Hone of Queen Mary University of London said it would “never be a human ancestor.”

Image provided by Microraptor zhaoianus.

Ralph Atanasios III

Microraptors lived in the forests of what is now China about 120 million years ago. They were about the size of a crow, had long feathers, and are believed to have sled through trees to catch small animals. That’s what makes this particular discovery so interesting, the researchers said.

After analyzing the animal’s digested foot, it appears that it was a mouse-sized creature that was ground-bound and not a particularly good climber, suggesting that Microraptor likely forgoed its treetop search for a ground snack. Previous studies of the feathered dinosaur revealed that it ate birds, lizards, and fish.

“It’s very rare to find examples of food inside dinosaurs, so every example is really important because it gives direct evidence of what they were eating,” Hoon said. “…this study paints a picture of a remarkable moment in time—one of the first recordings of a dinosaur eating a mammal—even if it wasn’t quite as scary as anything else in Jurassic Park.”

Close-up view of a mammal’s foot.

Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology

The research was published in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology on Tuesday.

The results show that this particular type of dinosaur had a “varied diet and was not specialized for any particular choice,” a press release from Hun University said. However, the university also noted that the researchers aren’t sure if the small mammals in the abdomen of birds of prey are direct prey or an already dead animal that has been scavenged.

Researcher Alex Dekichi of Mount Marty College in South Dakota compared the tyrannosaurus to a house cat, a creature about the same size.

“Microraptor was easy to coexist with, but terrify if it got out because it would catch everything from birds in your feeder to mice in your fence or fish in your pond,” said Dikichi.

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