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Fossil Find Suggests Some Dinosaurs Were Scavengers

April 6, 2010

Fossilized Velociraptor teeth fragments that were found near herbivore Protoceratops bones provide new evidence that predatory dinosaurs were scavengers as well as hunters.

The teeth match bite marks on the bones of the big-horned plant eater, according to the findings of a research team led by Dr. David Hone of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing.

Hone and his team, which also included Dr. Jonah Choiniere, Dr. Corwin Sullivan and Dr. Mike Pittman, unearthed the fossils at Bayan Mandahu in Inner Mongolia. They published their findings in the journal Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology.

“The marks were on and around bits of the jaw,” Dr. Hone told the BBC Earth News editor Matt Walker on Tuesday. “Protoceratops probably weighed many times what a Velociraptor did, with lots of muscle to eat. Why scrape away at the jaws, where there’s obviously not much muscle, so heavily that you scratch the bone and lose teeth unless there was not much else there. In short, this looks like scavenging as the animal would be feeding on the haunches and guts first, not the cheeks.”

“Animals like Velociraptor were probably feeding on animals like Protoceratops regularly, probably including both predation and scavenging,” he added. “Even the most dedicated predator won’t turn down a free meal if they chance across a dead animal with a few bits of meat still attached, and this looks like the case here.”

Over the past month, Dr. Hone and his colleagues have discovered multiple new fossil finds. They discovered an early relative of the Velociraptor in March, and last week, they discovered fossils of a “roadrunner” species of dinosaur that was one of the smallest and most agile ever discovered.

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