Velociraptor’s last meal

The Velociraptor fossil with the 75 mm long pterosaur bone in the gut (black arrows) and the breaks in the rib cage (white arrow). Credit: David Hone

Velociraptors didn’t turn down free food.

Scientists have discovered a pterosaur bone inside the remains of a Velociraptor that would have lived in the Gobi Desert, Mongolia, approximately 75 million years ago. The 75 mm-long pterosaur bone was lodged in the upper part of the Velociraptor ribcage, where its stomach would have been located.

The findings, published online in Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, and Palaeoecology, support the theory that Velociraptors, which have been described as hyper predators, would also scavenge on available carcasses. While the flying reptile would have been too large to be the Velociraptor’s intended prey, it could have been scavenged.

“It would be difficult and probably even dangerous for the small theropod dinosaur to target a pterosaur with a wingspan of two metres or more, unless the pterosaur was already ill or injured,” said co-author Dr David Hone, from the University College Dublin in Ireland.

“So the pterosaur bone we’ve identified in the gut of the Velociraptor was most likely scavenged from a carcass rather than the result of a predatory kill.”

Artist’s impression of a Velociraptor scavenging the carcass of a Pterosaur. Credit: Brett Booth

The Velociraptor was also injured; an analysis of the skeleton revealed that it was either carrying or recovering from an injury to its ribs when it died. The well-preserved nature of the bone suggests its death occurred not long after “the last meal”.

“The surface of the bone is smooth and in good condition, with no unusual traces of marks or deformation that could be attributed to digestive acids,” Hone said. “So it’s likely that the Velociraptor itself died not long after ingesting the bone.”

The size of the bone also indicates that small non-avian dinosaurs were capable of consuming relatively large bones, something observed in modern crocodiles.

 

Source: University College Dublin

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