It might sound like a killer drone, but the Microraptor was in fact an airborne terror that could harass fish as much as it did birds and mammals in the Cretaceous period, new dinosaur research has discovered. The flying dinosaur, known to be roughly the size of a hawk, had previously been believed to feed exclusively on what it could seize from the trees, but preserved stomach content examined by a team at the University of Alberta, Science Daily reports, revealed its appetites were far wider ranging.
The fossil was discovered in China, where it had been preserved in volcanic ash. That meant its stomach contents were preserved, which allowed the research team to identify fish remnants and overturn previous assumptions about the Microraptor’s diet, as well as where it lived and hunted.
“Now we know that Microraptor operated in varied terrain and had a varied diet,”Scott Persons, graduate student at the University of Alberta, said of the findings. Earlier evidence had suggested that the flying dinosaur stuck to the birds and squirrel-sized mammals it could find in trees.
“It took advantage of a variety of prey in the wet, forested environment that was China during the early Cretaceous period, 120 million years ago” Persons concluded, pointing out that the dinosaur’s teeth were, in fact, adapted to a mixed diet. Serrations on one side, with a forward-facing angle that allowed it to more quickly swallow fish after having dived down and scooped them out of the water.
The new discovery is notable because it makes Microraptor the first known flying raptor to prey on fish. The species is perhaps best known for featuring in Jurassic Park, though the film took liberties with the dinosaur’s anatomy, making it larger than in reality and missing out the feathers that would have covered a Velociraptor’s body.