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Scientists have documented one in all the rarest evidence of a dinosaur having eaten a mammal from a fossil specimen unearthed in the traditional forests of what’s now China.
The study, published on Wednesday within the Journal of vertebrate Paleontology, describes a small, feathered dinosaur Microraptor preserved with the foot of a small mammal inside its ribcage.
Researchers, including David Hone from the Queen Mary University of London, say the dinosaur lived throughout the Early Cretaceous Period around 120 million years ago in what’s now China.
“This study paints an image of an interesting moment in time – of a dinosaur eating a mammal – even when it isn’t quite as frightening as anything in Jurassic Park,” Dr Hone said.
The findings also fit with what’s seen in other small dinosaurs whose stomach contents suggest they tended to eat a wide range of other animals, specifically people who were smaller than them.
Scientists say the microraptor dinosaur was the dimensions of a crow with long feathers on its legs and arms, likely gliding from tree to tree and hunting out small animals to eat.
While the dinosaur was first described in 2000, scientists say key details of the stays of one other animal inside it had been missed.
In the brand new study, researchers discovered the foot of an ancient mammal preserved between the ribs of the microraptor.
“It’s so rare to seek out examples of food inside dinosaurs so every example is basically necessary because it gives direct evidence of what they were eating,” Dr Hone said in an announcement.
“While this mammal would absolutely not have been a human ancestor, we are able to look back at a few of our ancient relatives being a meal for hungry dinosaurs,” he added.
The foot, found by scientists contained in the dinosaur’s stays, likely belonged to a really small mammal, concerning the size of a contemporary mouse, researchers say.
Evaluation of the foot bones suggest that the small mammal likely lived most of its life on the bottom, and was not a superb climber.
Previous studies have documented Microraptor specimens containing a bird, a lizard and a fish, and with the brand new finding of those dinosaurs also eating mammals, researchers say the prehistoric reptiles had a various eating regimen and weren’t specialists.
Nevertheless, it stays unclear if the dinosaur directly preyed upon the mammal, or if it scavenged on the small animal.
“The good thing is that, like your housecat which was concerning the same size, Microraptor would have been a simple animal to live with but a terror if it got out as it could hunt the whole lot from the birds at your feeder to the mice in your hedge or the fish in your pond,” Alex Dececchi, one other creator of the study from Mount Marty College, said.
“So there we have now it, dinosaurs – perhaps unsurprisingly – ate mammals at the very least every so often,” researchers wrote in a blog post.