Scientists claim first discovery of mammal eaten by dinosaur

Paleontologists say they have identified foot of mouse-sized mammal in fossilised rib cage of predatory microraptor

It may have been a pressing fear for the fictional characters in the 1993 film Jurassic Park, but scientists believe they have uncovered the first known incident of a mammal being eaten by a dinosaur.

However, the fossils from 120m years ago are not of a human ancestor, but instead the foot of an animal inside the ribcage of a small feathered dinosaur, known as a microraptor.

The palaeontologists said that their findings, published in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, is the “first record of a dinosaur eating a mammal”.

An artist’s impression of the small, feathered dinosaur known as microraptor, issued by Queen Mary University of London.
An artist’s impression issued by Queen Mary University of London of the small, feathered dinosaur known as microraptor. Photograph: Ralph Attanasia III/PA

Dr David Hone from Queen Mary University of London, who is first author on the study, said: “It’s so rare to find examples of food inside dinosaurs, so every example is really important as it gives direct evidence of what they were eating.

“While this mammal would absolutely not have been a human ancestor, we can look back at some of our ancient relatives being a meal for hungry dinosaurs.

“This study paints a picture of a fascinating moment in time – the first record of a dinosaur eating a mammal – even if it isn’t quite as frightening as anything in Jurassic Park.”

Microraptors lived in the ancient forests of what is now China, somewhere between 125m and 113m years ago.

While it moved on its two legs, experts believe some species may have been capable of guided flight.

They were the size of crows, or small cats, and moved from tree to tree to prey on small animals.

The specimen was first described more than 20 years ago, in 2000, but researchers said the previous team had failed to see the remains of another animal inside the dinosaur.

Analysis has suggested that the prey was a mammal about the size of a mouse, which lived on the ground and was not a good climber.

Previous research has shown other microraptor fossils with preserved non-mammal food in their stomachs, such as a bird, lizard or fish.


Harry Taylor

The GuardianTramp

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