A team of researchers has recently discovered a new specimen of a Microraptor- volant dromaesaurid Microraptor zhaoianus- with the remains of a nearly complete lizard preserved in its stomach. The researchers have named the lizard after Lord Indra.
The name Indrasaurus was inspired by a Vedic legend in which the god Indra was swallowed by a dragon during a great battle (the dragon here referring to Microraptor).
About 120 million years ago, a small dinosaur gulped down a lizard, swallowing the reptile whole. The wee lizard’s story might have ended there, but the dinosaur died soon after and was preserved as a fossil. Millions of years later, paleontologists discovered the scaly meal in the dinosaur’s belly.
Scientists found the lizard when they examined the fossil of a feathered dinosaur named Microraptor zhaoianus, a small carnivore from the early Cretaceous period (145.5 million to 65.5 million years ago) in what is now northeastern China. In Microraptor’s abdomen was a near-complete skeleton that the researchers identified as a previously unknown lizard species.
The fossilized lizard’s skeleton was still whole and nearly complete, and it appeared to belong to a juvenile. Its position inside the dinosaur’s gut showed that it was gulped down head first, “consistent with feeding behavior in extant carnivorous lizards and birds,” the study authors wrote.
Microraptor and its lizard lunch provide a rare glimpse of direct interactions between predators and prey in ecosystems that vanished millions of years ago. They were found alongside other Microraptor fossils that hold the remains of mammals, fish and birds in their bellies, according to the study.