Wolf-like dino preyed on early birds

A dinosaur that couldn’t fly itself could nevertheless take down and eat flying dinos as much as a third of its size.

University of Alberta researchers have found the fossilized remains of three flying dinosaurs in the belly of a raptor-like predator called Sinocalliopteryx. With a feathery or heairy body, it was around the size of a wolf.

It’s the first time a predator has been linked to the killing of multiple flying dinosaurs.

Sinocalliopteryx’s dinner was three Confuciusornis – one of the earliest birds, and probably limited to slow take-offs and short flights. Paleontology student Scott Persons, reckons it may have used stealth to stalk the flyers.

“Sinocalliopteryx didn’t have wings or the physical tools needed to be an adept tree climber,” he says.

“The fact that this Sinocalliopteryx had, not one, but three undigested birds in its stomach indicate it was a voracious eater and a very active hunter.”

The find was made in China’s Liaoning province, and another nearby Sinocalliopteryx fossil shows it, too, had wings for lunch. The researchers identified its last meal as a Sinornithosaurus, a small feathered meat-eater about the size of a house cat that may have been able to fly or glide short distances.

“Sinornithosaurus is a relative of Velociraptor, which means this is the first direct evidence of a raptor becoming another predatory dinosaur’s meal,” says Persons.