What’s for Dinner? (RJS)

This is Thanksgiving in the US – time for something light, nothing too involved. Scot has posts up – or coming up – about food … Turkey of course. But fowl fare is nothing new. In the name of science I feel it only appropriate to bring up a much earlier “turkey” dinner. From an article published online this week at PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences) Additional specimen of Microraptor provides unique evidence of dinosaurs preying on birds we can see just how long the tradition has been going on … apparently at least 65-145 million years.

Microraptor gui is a small bird-like dinosaur with feathered forelimbs and feathered hindlimbs. The image to the right is from Wikipedia – and shows a classic fossil of M. gui.

The article in PNAS linked above reports a new specimen of M. gui preserved just after “turkey” dinner. The article is fascinating, although a little dry and technical, but it requires a subscription. News reports are available from several sources, including Discovery News, The Daily Mail and Science Alert. The original news release from the Chinese Academy of Sciences is also available.

This is a remarkable fossil – a well preserved specimen of microraptor gui with a small adult bird relatively intact in the gut.  The enantiornithine bird is not exactly a turkey – it was arboreal (lived in trees) and quite small. The presence of such a bird in the gut provides an important clue, not only about dinner but about the origin and development of flight and the ecological niche of bird-like dinosaurs. Microraptor gui is not a missing link or transitional form, but finding one preserved just after dinner provides an important new piece for the puzzle. The availability of new, intriguing fossils, never knowing what will be found next, makes paleontology an exciting field of study.

If you wish to contact me directly you may do so at rjs4mail[at]att.net.

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