Four-winged and clad in iridescent black plumage, the dinosaur known as Microraptor is among the most intriguing subjects of paleontological inquiry in recent memory. Now, fossilized guts reveal the crow-sized creature is also one of the few dinosaurs known to have dined on fish. This strange, shiny-feathered reptile just continues to amaze.
Top image by Jason Brougham
Previous analyses of Microraptor specimens pointed toward prey retrieved from trees: small mammals and birds. But a new analysis, reported Apr. 19 by Persons and colleagues in the journal Evolution, suggests the dinosaur feasted on fish as well. The team based its conclusions on specimen QM V1002, retrieved from northeastern China in an area thought to have been a forested, freshwater lake environment 120 million years ago. Nearly complete, though with a badly crushed skull, the fossil bears traces of the long, dark feathers that have come to distinguish Microraptor. Among the preserved bones and feathers is a lump of bony fish bits that includes fin rays, ribs, vertebrae, and bits of acid-etched fish skull.
“There are only two other good examples of dinosaurs with a taste for sushi: the giant, crocodile-like spinosaurs and the tiny compsognathids,” said University of Alberta paleontologist Scott Persons, who led the study. “So, no. Fish are not usually considered as staples of a dino’s diet.”
Illustration by Emily Willoughby