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Dramatic Fossil Shows Mammal Attacking Dinosaur

Dramatic Fossil Shows Mammal Attacking Dinosaur
Scientists found a dramatic fossil that shows a mammal, the size of a domestic cat, attacking a dinosaur. Credit: Scientific Reports / CC BY 4.0

Mesozoic mammals were often eaten by dinosaurs, but it might surprise you to know that some mammals actually feasted on dinosaurs too.

In northeastern China, scientists found a new fossil that shows a tough mammal, similar to a badger, attacking a dinosaur that was a plant-eater.

This event happened around 125 million years ago. The mammal was bold enough to jump on the dinosaur, sink its teeth into its prey’s ribs, and have a meal.

Out of the two ancient creatures, the first is a four-legged mammal called Repenomamus robustus, which was about the size of a domestic cat.

The second is a beaked two-legged dinosaur known as Psittacosaurus lujiatunensis, which was roughly the size of a medium-sized dog.

The scientists believe that these two creatures were caught in a volcanic mudflow and ended up buried alive while locked in mortal combat.

Dinosaurs did not always dominate smaller mammals

Jordan Mallon, a paleobiologist from the Canadian Museum of Nature in Ottawa and one of the leaders of the study published in the journal Scientific Reports, says there has been a common belief that dinosaurs, being much larger than their mammal counterparts, would always dominate their interactions.

It was traditionally thought that the bigger dinosaurs would simply prey upon the smaller mammals.

Mallon mentioned that the discovery challenges our previous assumptions. The fossil provides strong evidence of a smaller mammal actually hunting and attacking a larger dinosaur, which was unexpected.

During the Mesozoic Era, when dinosaurs ruled the Earth, most mammals were tiny, like shrews, and had relatively minor roles in the grand scheme of life.

Their main goal was to avoid becoming someone else’s meal. However, Repenomamus’s fossil demonstrates that at least some mammals were not passive victims, reported Reuters.

Analyzing the fossil in ‘Chinese Pompeii’

Mallon emphasized that the discovery holds great importance as it reveals that the food webs during the Mesozoic Era were much more intricate and complex than previously thought.

The location in Liaoning Province where this extraordinary fossil was found is often referred to as the “Chinese Pompeii” due to its abundance of animal fossils entombed by volcanic eruptions.

Analyzing the fossil was similar to investigating a crime scene. The scene depicted Repenomamus positioned atop the fallen Psittacosaurus, firmly holding its jaw and hind leg while sinking its teeth into the ribcage.

Repenomamus measures about 1-1/2 feet (47 cm) in length, while Psittacosaurus is around 4 feet (120 cm) long. Both ancient creatures are believed to be juveniles.

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