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Microraptors' Teeth were Well-Suited for a Diet of Fish: Study

Apr 23, 2013 03:58 AM EDT

Microraptor, a small flying dinosaur, had the ability to catch fish, according to a new study. Previously, it was believed that Microraptor preyed mostly on other birds and some animals.

The study was conducted by researchers from University of Alberta who examined fossils of Microraptor discovered in China.

The dinosaur was about the size of a modern hawk and according to Scott Persons, a graduate student from U of A paleontology, it had a wind configuration similar to a bi-plane.

"We were very fortunate that this Microraptor was found in volcanic ash and its stomach content of fish was easily identified," Persons said.

Microraptor had long feathers on its forearms, hind legs and tail, and was capable of short, controlled flights, he said.

Researchers found that the dinosaur's teeth were well-formed for fishing and could catch slippery fishes.

Microraptor's teeth are serrated at only one side, unlike teeth of other dinosaurs that are serrated both the sides and can cut through meat like a steak knife.

"Microraptor seems adapted to impale fish on its teeth. With reduced serrations the prey wouldn't tear itself apart while it struggled," said Persons. "Microraptor could simply raise its head back, the fish would slip off the teeth and be swallowed whole, no fuss no muss."

Previous research has shown that Microraptors had dark, iridescent feathers, which were used for insulation before the dinosaurs learnt how to fly.

"Now we know that Microraptor operated in varied terrain and had a varied diet," said Persons in a news release. "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."

The study is published in the journal Evolution.          

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