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Velociraptor’s Last Dinner

Velociraptor illustration by Brett Booth

Remember those velocipraptors? Smaller and faster than their T-Rex cousins, and with sickle-shaped talons on the second toe of each foot, they’d be just as terrifying if you ran across one … or if she ran across you, using that talon like a switchblade to slash right through you. Now we seem to have some evidence of what they actually ate.

A new study suggests that a velociraptor whose fossil was found in China’s Gobi Desert, was in the middle of eating a flying pterosaur, when she died. That’s because a small pterosaur bone was found in the gut of the relatively intact velociraptor.

The pterosaur would have been considerably larger than the velociraptor, and may have already been dead when discovered by the smaller animal.

“It would be difficult and probably even dangerous for the small theropod dinosaur to target a pterosaur with a wingspan of 2 meters [6.5 feet] or more unless the pterosaur was already ill or injured,” study researcher David Hone told Live Science. “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.”

Velociraptor specimen with a pterosaur bone as gut content (black arrows).

Writing on his own blog, Hone said:

As you can see the bone is incredibly thin-walled which is the major reason that it’s inferred to be an azhdarcid pterosaur, though their presence in the Late Cretaceous, including a related formation, and the general absence of other pterosaurs in the Late Cretaceous helps support this identity. Given what is around and the thinness of the bones, it’s pretty unambiguous as indeed is the identification of the dromaeosaur as Velociraptor given that we have basically the whole thing. In short, this is about as convincing a case as one could make that a Velociraptor had eaten an azhdarhid.