Microraptors Could Swoop Down and Snatch Fish From Water

Posted on April 23, 2013

Microraptor with Fish

Scientists have determined that Microraptor, a pigeon-sized four-winged flying dinosaur that lived 120 million years ago, was capable of swooping down and snatching fish from the water. A University of Alberta-led research team discovered new evidence of what Microraptor ate after analyzing its fossilized stomach content remains. The artist's conception above shows a Microraptor eating a fish.

Scott Persons, a paleontology graduate student at the University of Alberta, said in a statement, "We were very fortunate that this Microraptor was found in volcanic ash and its stomach content of fish was easily identified."

Microraptors also snatched small mammals form trees and small birds out of the air. The researchers say in their paper, "Microraptor appears to have been an opportunistic and generalist feeder, able to exploit the most common prey in both the arboreal and aquatic microhabitats of the Early Cretaceous Jehol ecosystem."

The researchers say the Microraptor probably could have impaled fish on its teeth, which are angled forward and serrated on only one side. Persons says, "Microraptor seems adapted to impale fish on its teeth. With reduced serrations the prey wouldn't tear itself apart while it struggled. Microraptor could simply raise its head back, the fish would slip off the teeth and be swallowed whole, no fuss no muss."

The research was published here in Evolution.

Image: Emily Willoughby

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