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During the Cretaceous period, 120 million years ago, a dinosaur downed its last meal – a small mammal the size of a mouse. And it’s still there.
A researcher with a sharp eye was spotted mammalian leg preserved in the guts of the fossilized Microraptor zhaoianus. a feathered therapod less than a meter (3 feet).
“I couldn’t believe it at first. Inside the Microraptor skeleton was a perfectly preserved leg of a small rodent-like mammal about a centimeter (0.4 inch) long,” said Hans Larsson, a biology professor at McGill University’s Redpath Museum in Montreal. Larsson came across the fossil while browsing museum collections in China.
“These findings are the only solid evidence we have of food consumption by these extinct animals — and they are extremely rare,” Larsson said in a press release.
study published in the journal Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology On December 20, it said it was only the 21st known example of a fossilized dinosaur with its last meal preserved.
It’s even rarer to find a mammal on the menu; There is another such example in the fossil record today.
“We already know of Microraptor specimens with parts of fish, birds and lizards preserved in their bellies. “This new finding adds a small mammal to their diet, which suggests that these dinosaurs were not opportunistic or selective eaters,” said Larsson, co-author of the study.
“Knowing that Microraptor was a generalist carnivore provides a new perspective on how ancient ecosystems functioned and possible insight into the success of these small, feathered dinosaurs,” he said.
Generalist predators such as foxes and ravens are important stabilizers in today’s ecosystems because they can feed on multiple species, the report said. According to the study, Microraptor is the first known example of a general carnivore during the dinosaur era.
It was possible that other dinosaurs from the therapod family, including tyrannosaurus rexIn the study, , could also have shared an equally undisturbed diet.
The Microraptor fossil was discovered in the early 2000s in the rich fossil deposits of the Liaoning region of northeastern China. The specimen, which had feathers on its arms and legs, was one of the first feathered dinosaurs to be discovered.
The co-author of the study, Dr. David Hone, who studies zoology at Queen Mary University of London, made a statement.
“This study paints a picture of an interesting moment in time — one of the first record(s) of a dinosaur eating a mammal — even if it’s not as scary as anything in ‘Jurassic Park.’
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