Monday, 29 July 2019

Wee Lizard Found in Dinosaur's Belly from 120 Million Years Ago


By Mindy Weisberger, Senior Writer | July 14, 2019 10:16pm ET
About 120 million years ago, a small dinosaur gulped down a lizard, swallowing the reptile whole. The wee lizard's story might have ended there, but the dinosaur died soon after and was preserved as a fossil. Millions of years later, paleontologists discovered the scaly meal in the dinosaur's belly.
Scientists found the lizard when they examined the fossil of a feathered dinosaur named Microraptor zhaoianus, a small carnivore from the early Cretaceous period (145.5 million to 65.5 million years ago) in what is now northeastern China. In Microraptor's abdomen was a near-complete skeleton that the researchers identified as a previously unknown lizard species.
This "exceptional specimen" paints a clearer picture of the animal diversity in this region during the Cretaceous, and it hints at what was on the menu for dinosaur predators like Microraptor, the scientists reported in a new study.
Microraptor belongs to the theropod (meat-eating) dinosaur group known as the dromaeosaurids — small to medium-sized bird-like dinosaurs — which also includes Velociraptor and Deinonychus. It had flight feathers on its front and back limbs, and it could likely glide or even fly, according to the study.
The fossilized lizard's skeleton was still whole and nearly complete, and it appeared to belong to a juvenile. Its position inside the dinosaur's gut showed that it was gulped down headfirst, "consistent with feeding behavior in extant carnivorous lizards and birds," the study authors wrote.
They dubbed the ingested lizard Indrasaurus wangi: The species name honors paleontologist Yuan Wang, director of the Paleozoological Museum of China, and Indrasaurus refers to a legend from ancient Indian texts about the deity Indra, who was swallowed whole by a dragon.

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