A new species of lizard discovered in the entrails of a microraptor

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Scientists determined that the microraptor ate the entire lizard and swallowed the reptile’s head first. Photo by Doyle Trankina/CAS

July 11 (UPI) — Paleontologists in China have recovered the complete remains of an ancient stomach lizard from a species of flying dromaeosaurid, Microraptor zhaoianus, a small bird-like dinosaur.

According to a new article published in the journal Current Biology, the lizard specimen includes a new species, Indrasaurus wangi, named after Wang Yuan, director of the Paleozoological Museum of China.

The lizard’s scientific name is a tribute to a Vedic legend in which Indra, the Hindu god of the skies, lightning, thunder and storms, is swallowed by a dragon in a dramatic battle.

Paleontologists recovered the microraptor and lizard from the Jiufotang formation. Fossils from the Jiufotang Formation and the slightly older Yixian Formation include what is known as the Jehol Biota, the diverse ecosystem that existed in northeast China between 133 and 120 million years ago. years.

After closely analyzing the lizard remains, researcher Dong Liping and his colleagues from the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology, part of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, conducted an extensive phylogenetic survey of lizards from the Cretaceous. Liping determined that the new species of lizard was unique but closely related to Liushusaurus, a genus of medium-sized stocky lizards from the Lower Cretaceous. The lizard’s teeth set it apart from its relatives, suggesting that the new species may have evolved a specialized diet.

Phylogenetic analysis has also shown that Cretaceous lizards were much more closely related than modern lizard lineages.

The latest discovery is just the most recent evidence to suggest that microraptors were opportunistic predators. Paleontologists have previously found mammals, birds, fish and lizards in the stomachs of winged dinosaurs.

With a growing body of evidence documenting predator-prey relationships among the Jehol Biota, scientists used the latest study as an opportunity to build a food web.

“Although certainly preliminary, this food web indicates that fish was the most important food source for secondary and tertiary consumers,” researchers said. written in a press release. “This food web can be used in the future to better understand the Jehol ecosystem.”

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