Fish-Eating Dino Hunted Like a House Cat

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Its habitat was a forested environment filled with fresh-water lakes and swamps, likely packed full of fish.

To catch fish, the dinosaur probably did not wade into the water like a stork would today. It also didn’t grasp fish in its talons, like a living bald eagle or osprey would.

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"Maybe Microraptor speared fish in shallow water from ambush on the bank, like a little green heron, or maybe it would dive for fish, like a kingfisher; we just don’t know," Persons said.

Thomas Holtz, Jr., a vertebrate paleontologist at the University of Maryland, agrees that Microraptor was a non-bird dinosaur that consumed fish, but also other prey.

In terms of diet, he likened the dinosaur to a house cat.

"Small cats are probably a good ecological analogue for little dromaeosaurs and the primitive birds as well: creatures that are pouncers and capable of ambushing small prey of all sorts, and with claws and jaws capable of hauling small fish and the like out of the water," Holtz told Discovery News, saying that he bets salamanders and frogs will also be found in Microraptor stomachs before long.

Holtz added that the dinosaur was "a generalist predator: a terror of the tiny fauna of the Early Cretaceous."

"Unlike a bird, it had a long tail with specialized bony rods that helped to support it," Persons said. "And unlike a modern bird, Microraptor had toothed jaws -- not a beak -- and had a large sickle-shaped claw on each foot, and clawed fingers."

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