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RE: Microraptor preyed on birds (official paper in PNAS)
Well, since it's not open access I can't say anything about the paper itself
(though I could access it for 2 days for the low low price of $10), but the
Discover article implies the bird wasn't scavenged because it's articulated and
facing headfirst. This doesn't address the obvious argument made on the DML
that the enantiornithine could have been caught on the ground, since that's the
case for many modern predators attacking arboreal birds. Indeed, I don't see
why a predator wouldn't eat a scavenged bird the same way it eats a recently
killed bird, since the animal still goes down the throat more smoothly head
first. So while I still technically reserve final judgement until I read the
paper, I stand by my earlier statement that it's impossible to infer
arboreality from one Microraptor eating one arboreal bird.
I do find it amusing this appeared in PNAS, which has also recently featured
the terrible venomous Sinornithosaurus paper and the amusingly horrible
'insects hybridized with onychophorans to get their larval state' paper. So
far as I can tell, the most useful thing about this Microraptor paper is the
supplementary info which includes measurements for several otherwise
unpublished microraptorian specimens. As a further amusement, two are called
"Microraptor gui sp.". Er... In any case, as the new specimen (IVPP 17972B)
contains a complete skull, I would have greatly preferred if O'Connor et al.
would have described that instead of presenting flawed behavioral arguments.
> Date: Mon, 21 Nov 2011 19:19:15 -0800
> From: email@example.com
> To: firstname.lastname@example.org
> Subject: Microraptor preyed on birds (official paper in PNAS)
> From: Ben Creisler
> First, I have changed my email address for the DML. I had kept by old DML
> email address for years, but server crashes and other problems have made it a
> problem. I can still receive email at the old address email@example.com.
> Many thanks to Dan Chure for posting the pterosaur Microtuban ref for me and
> to Mary for changing the email connection to DML.
> Here's a new paper available online that apparently has not been mentioned
> yet. The topic was discussed earlier based on the SVP abstract.
> Jingmai O'Connor, Zhonghe Zhou, and Xing Xu (2011)
> Additional specimen of Microraptor provides unique evidence of dinosaurs
> preying on birds.
> Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (advance online publication)
> doi: 10.1073/pnas.1117727108
> Preserved indicators of diet are extremely rare in the fossil record; even
> more so is unequivocal direct evidence for predator–prey relationships. Here,
> we report on a unique specimen of the small nonavian theropod Microraptor gui
> from the Early Cretaceous Jehol biota, China, which has the remains of an
> adult enantiornithine bird preserved in its abdomen, most likely not
> scavenged, but captured and consumed by the dinosaur. We provide direct
> evidence for the dietary preferences of Microraptor and a nonavian dinosaur
> feeding on a bird. Further, because Jehol enantiornithines were distinctly
> arboreal, in contrast to their cursorial ornithurine counterparts, this
> fossil suggests that Microraptor hunted in trees thereby supporting
> inferences that this taxon was also an arborealist, and provides further
> support for the arboreality of basal dromaeosaurids.
> For reconstructions and images of the fossil: