Bird-like dinosaur discovery

From British daily The Guardian:

Dinosaur with feathers and fangs prowled forests like a predatory turkey

Poison from the bird-like dinosaur’s fangs may have sent victims into shock, hampering their chances of escaping

* Ian Sample, science correspondent
*Monday 21 December 2009 20.00 GMT

The remains of a venomous, feathered beast that terrorised prehistoric forests like a predatory turkey have been unearthed by fossil hunters in northern China.

Palaeontologists uncovered a well-preserved skull and partial skeleton of the bird-like dinosaur, Sinornithosaurus, that lived in the region 128 million years ago.

The creature, a close relative of the velociraptor, had fangs similar to those seen in modern poisonous snakes and venomous lizards, such as the Mexican gila monster.

Analysis of the dinosaur’s fang-like teeth revealed grooves that could channel poison from glands set into each side of the creature’s jawbone, researchers said.

“This is an animal about the size of a turkey,” said Larry Martin, curator of vertebrate palaeontology at the Natural History Museum and Biodiversity Research Centre at the University of Kansas. “It’s a specialised predator of small dinosaurs and birds.”

The discovery, reported in the US journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, is the first evidence of a venomous relative in the velociraptor lineage.

The venom was probably not potent enough to be lethal, but may have sent victims into shock, hampering their chances of fighting back or escaping.

“You wouldn’t have seen it coming,” said co-author David Burnham. “It would have swooped down behind you from a low-hanging tree branch and attacked.”

“Once the teeth were embedded in your skin the venom could seep into the wound. The prey would rapidly go into shock, but it would still be living, and it might have seen itself being slowly devoured by this raptor,” Burnham added.

One of the beast’s close relatives was the four-winged glider, the microraptor, which some scientists believe may also have been poisonous. Sinornithosaurus’ fangs were long enough to penetrate thick feathers and pierce the skin beneath to a depth of half a centimetre, enough to get venom into the prey’s bloodstream.

See also here.

Alligators breathe like birds, scientists have discovered. This similarity in breathing style may have arisen in a distant common ancestor of both animal groups, the researchers who made the discovery think, and may explain why that ancestor and one group of its descendants, dinosaurs, came to rule the world (at least for awhile). In fact, the finding could provide evidence for why these dinosaurs came to dominate the land at a time when the air had much less oxygen than it does today: here.

The Extent of the Preserved Feathers on the Four-Winged Dinosaur Microraptor gui under Ultraviolet Light: here.

A shiny dinosaur –four-winged Microraptor gets colour and gloss: here.

Microraptor’s glossy black feather coat reconstructed: here.

Prehistoric birds: here.

How did birds learn to fly? The first flight tests of a foam model of a four-winged, feathered dinosaur suggest that early birds may have started their aviation careers by gliding down from trees: here.

6 thoughts on “Bird-like dinosaur discovery

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