A new lizard species has been discovered in the gut of a dinosaur. The discovery of this lizard may to better understand the diet of these small dinosaurs.
Microraptor zhaoianus is a small feathered dinosaur that belongs to the family Dromaeosauridae, which includes among its members the famous velociraptor and other microraptors known for their ability to fly. One of these fossils was found in Liaoning Province in northeastern China with almost a complete prey in his stomach.
The prey in question is a lizard which has been named Indrasaurus wangi and is the representative of a previously unknown species. It has a type of tooth that has never been seen in reptilian fossils found in the same area and, along with many other animals, make up Jehol’s fauna.
For two decades, paleontologists have been extracting dozens of fossils of reptiles, but also mammals, birds and feathered dinosaurs from Liaoning rocks. Most of these specimens belong to the Lower Cretaceous, more than 100 to 130 million years ago. However, in these same sites, paleontologists have also found fossils dating back about 160 million years, a period corresponding to Jurassic.
This is the fourth documented case of a microraptor found with the contents of its stomach. We now know that this dinosaur fed on mammals, fish, birds, and lizards. This supports the idea that it was an opportunistic predator, say its discoverers in the journal Current Biology.
The lizard was found almost complete with its well-preserved skeleton, indicating that it was swallowed whole, head first. A technique that carnivorous birds and some reptiles use today.
In the Jehol fauna, other animals were found with the contents of their food bolus. In all, scientists count about twenty fossils that provide a first overview of the trophic interactions of the time. In the majority of cases, it is fish that seem to be the preferred prey.