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Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Superb fossil hints mammals hunted dinosaurs 3 times their dimension

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Representation appearing the mammal Repenomamus robustus attacking the dinosaur Psittacosaurus lujiatunensis

Michael Skrepnick

Small mammals that lived round 125 million years in the past will have preyed on dinosaurs 3 times their dimension, a extraordinary fossil unearthed in China suggests.

A handful of fossils from China have proven that mammals from the Cretaceous Duration, such because the carnivores Repenomamus giganticus and Repenomamus robustus, will have dined on toddler dinosaurs and scavenged dinosaur carcasses.

Now, Jordan Mallon on the Canadian Museum of Nature in Ottawa and his colleagues have described the primary fossil that looks to turn the cat-sized R. robustus actively looking a far greater dinosaur.

The fossil, which used to be came upon within the Lujiatun fossil beds in Liaoning province in China, captures the instant that the mammal apparently took on Psittacosaurus lujiatunensis, a plant-eating, bipedal, beaked dinosaur – simply earlier than the 2 have been buried via particles all over a volcanic eruption.

Fossil appearing the entangled skeletons of Psittacosaurus lujiatunensis and Repenomamus robustus

Gang Han

The intertwined skeletons display the mammal with its entrance paws greedy the dinosaur’s mouth, its jaw clamped down on its ribs and their hindlimbs entangled.

The placement of R. robustus on most sensible of P. lujiatunensis signifies that the mammal used to be the attacker, says Mallon. The loss of enamel marks at the bones of the dinosaur means that the mammal wasn’t simply scavenging on its carcass.

“We expect that the burden of the proof laws in favour of the predation speculation at the a part of the mammal,” says Mallon.

The researchers estimate that, on the time in their deaths, P. lujiatunensis weighed round 10.6 kilograms and R. robustus weighed round a 3rd of that, at 3.4 kilograms.

“The normal wisdom has been that the larger dinosaurs ate the smaller mammals, and that’s typically how it went,” says Mallon. “However what’s so unexpected about this fossil is that it suggests, every so often a minimum of, smaller mammals may just take down a bigger dinosaur.”

“It’s in point of fact a outstanding fossil,” says Nick Longrich on the College of Tub, UK, who wasn’t concerned within the find out about. However he isn’t satisfied that it presentations the mammal used to be looking the dinosaur. “The mammal is so much smaller than the dinosaur, which may argue in opposition to predation. However, as they be aware, every so often predators tackle a lot greater prey – wolverines are probably the most vintage examples.”

Hans Larsson at McGill College, Canada, may be sceptical of this interpretation. “The mammal’s hand within the mouth of the dinosaur, which had a top chew power, suggests a minimum of the dinosaur used to be lifeless on the time of burial or it will have simply sliced off the hand,” he says. “The awkward interlocking legs between the 2 suggests each have been lifeless or tumbled whilst being buried. On this case, I feel there isn’t sufficient proof to mention with complete self assurance the mammal used to be the predator stuck within the act of subduing its prey.”

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