Fish-Eating Dino Hunted Like a House Cat

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A 120-million-year-old dinosaur has been found with a stomach full of fish, according to a paper in the latest issue of the journal Evolution.

The dinosaur, Microraptor, now joins a small number of other dinos in the fossil record that have been found with clearly visible food remains in their guts.

In this case, "The gut contents consist of a jumbled mass of fish bones, not an intact fish skeleton, and some of these bones show evidence of being dissolved by digestive acid," project leader Scott Persons told Discovery News.

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Persons, a University of Alberta paleontologist, examined the Microraptor, found well-preserved in China within volcanic ash.

Its teeth were perfectly designed for killing and eating fish, he determined. The teeth were serrated on just one side, in addition to being angled forward. The dinosaur could then impale fish on its teeth without ripping the fish apart during the inevitable struggle.

Each fish meal would have been like a sushi slider.

"Microraptor could simply raise its head back, (and) the fish would slip off the teeth and be swallowed whole, no fuss or muss," he explained.

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The dinosaur, which was a member of the Dromaeosaur dino family, looked a lot like a modern bird, but not entirely.

Similar to many of today's birds, Microraptor had short insulating feathers covering its body, and long feathers on its wings and legs.

Previously it was thought that this dinosaur, which was not a direct ancestor of modern birds, lived in trees and preyed exclusively on small birds and mammals.

Now it's known that Microraptor operated in a varied terrain, hunting different types of prey. Clearly fish was a favorite, but other evidence suggests it also gobbled up birds and terrestrial animals about the size of squirrels.