There’s something Fishy About Microraptor
by Brian Switek
I don’t know why a raven is like a writing desk, but I do know that Microraptor was like a cat. The feathery little dinosaur was cute and glossy, but those adorable features were offset by the carnivore’s excessive pointiness. Even though the non-avian dinosaur was about the size of a raven, and even had feathers with an iridescent corvid sheen, Microraptor still bore pointed teeth, grasping hand claws, and the classic deinonychosaur switchblade talons on each foot. All of this made Microraptor a cuddly-looking little cutter, much like a cat. And the dinosaur shared something else with felines – a fondness for fish.
Since the time the dinosaur was named in 2000, paleontologists have discovered multiple specimens of Microraptor in the 120 million year old lake deposits of China. Many of these are not only articulated, but fossilized to such a fine degree that the petrified remains of their feathers remain intact. This hi-def preservation also safeguarded tatters of Microraptor meals. One Microraptor individual, described two years ago, had feasted on an early bird shortly before perishing in a case of non-avian dinosaur eats avian dinosaur. But a Microraptor known as QM V1002 enjoyed a different last meal.
Fossilized in the position of QM V1002′s stomach, paleontologist Lida Xing and colleagues explain in a new Evolution paper, are the scraps of bony fish. A small mass of fin rays, vertebrae, and other piscine tidbits are tucked between the dinosaur’s ribs, some of which had been etched by digestive fluids when the Microraptor was still alive. The question is whether this Microraptor actually caught fish or just happened along some convenient snacks thrown up onto the lakeshore…
(read more: http://phenomena.nationalgeographic.com/2013/04/22/theres-something-fishy-about-microraptor/)
(images: T - Jason Brougham, UT - Austin; B - UT - Austin)