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Re: Microraptor preyed on birds (official paper in PNAS)

Mickey Mortimer <mickey_mortimer111@msn.com> wrote:

> 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'm prepared to cut the authors some slack here.  Here we have a small
theropod (_Microraptor_) that previous studies have inferred to be at
last partly arboreal.  And what turns up in the stomach of one of
these theropods?  An arboreal bird.

Yeah, there is no reason to assume that the little bird was
necessarily in a tree when the _Microraptor_ snapped it up.  Modern
specialist perching birds often forage on the ground.  _Microraptor_
might have pounced on the bird while it was on the ground.  Or the
bird might have already been dead when _Microraptor_ gobbled it up.
But the behavior depicted for _Microraptor_ in Fig. 3 is at least
consistent with the skeletal (and integumental) anatomy of this
theropod: the hindlimbs 'walk' up the tree, the hands grip the tree on
either side to provide support, and the jaws catch the prey.
_Microraptor_'s 'wings'  could then be deployed to return the animal
to the ground.  No perching (or roosting) is required - so
_Microraptor_ doesn't require a perching pes or prehensile manus.