Dinosaur Abdominal Analysis Reveals Wolf-Like Hunting Prowess
August 30, 2012

Dinosaur Abdominal Analysis Reveals Wolf-Like Hunting Prowess

Lawrence LeBlond for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online

Analysis of two dinosaur fossil specimens have revealed new information about hunting and feeding behaviors of a wolf-like dinosaur, according to a report published in the latest issue of PLoS ONE.

Researchers from University of Alberta at Edmonton found evidence that a feathered dinosaur known as Sinocalliopteryx was able to capture and consume small flying dinosaurs. Sinocalliopteryx, itself a flightless dinosaur, stood about 6.5 feet long and was roughly the size of a modern-day wolf. It hailed from the Lower Cretaceous Period from 145-100 million years ago.

The paleontology team at Alberta found the fossilized remains of three flying dinosaurs in the abdominal cavity of the raptor-like predator. The study showed that the dinosaur hunted primitive flying birds that had not yet mastered fast take-offs, making them easier targets for Sinocalliopteryx.

The meal victims of one of the specimens were identified as Confuciusornis, a flying dinosaur that shared a similar, yet primitive, skeletal and muscle makeup of modern birds.

The researchers said this is the first time a predator has been linked to the killing of multiple flying dinosaurs.

Scott Petersons, a paleontology student at Alberta and coauthor of the report, said Sinocalliopteryx may have used stealth to stalk the primitive flying dinosaurs. “Sinocalliopteryx didn't have wings or the physical tools needed to be an adept tree climber.”

While the hunter had feathers--or hair-like fuzz--covering its body, it was used primarily for insulation, helping the beast maintain a warm body temperature and high metabolism that required a lot of food as fuel, Petersons explained.

“The fact that this Sinocalliopteryx had, not one, but three undigested birds in its stomach indicate it was a voracious eater and a very active hunter,” said Petersons.

The first Sinocalliopteryx specimen was discovered in China´s Liaoning Province. The Alberta team, led by Phil Bell of the Pipestone Creek Dinosaur Initiative in Canada, analyzed the contents of that dinosaur along with a second specimen also found in that area. The team also found another small feathered dinosaur, Sinornithosaurus, in the second Sinocalliopteryx specimen´s abdominal cavity. The team believe this was that dinosaur´s last meal.

“Sinornithosaurus is a relative of Velociraptor which means this is the first direct evidence of a raptor becoming another predatory dinosaur's meal,” said Petersons.

While this discovery is significant, the team acknowledges that it is not known if the prey had been actually hunted or just scavenged, but other evidence suggests that this dinosaur was an adept stealthy hunter that may have often taken on other dinosaurs more than a third its own size.