A team of paleontologists has found the first evidence of a dinosaur eating a mammal. The fossil is that of a Microraptor, which was studied more than 20 years ago. It was found in the Jiufotang Formation in a western part of China. The team that studied that fossil said it is 120 million years old and found the rib cage still intact. The Microraptor, roughly the size of a crow, had the foot of a small mouse-sized creature inside its ribcage.
The study detailing the re-examination of the fossil has been published in Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.
"At first, I couldn't believe it. There was a tiny rodent-like mammal foot about a centimeter long perfectly preserved inside a Microraptor skeleton. These finds are the only solid evidence we have about the food consumption of these long extinct animals - and they are exceptionally rare," vertebrate paleontologist Hans Larsson from McGill University in Canada, who came across the fossil, said about the discovery.
The Microraptors lived during the Cretacious period and the fossil studied belongs to Microraptor zhaoianus.
According to National Geographic, Microraptor, which means "small thief" in Greek, got its name from being the smallest known species of raptor dinosaurs, or dinosaurs with bird-like qualities. It is currently the smallest of all known dinosaurs.
The dinosaur had flight feathers on both its front and back limbs, and long upper arm bones similar to those seen in today's birds.
Scientists have found that Microraptor's feathers were iridescent, meaning they had a metallic shine similar to the feathers of modern peacocks and hummingbirds.