Scientists Find an 'Exceptional Specimen' of a Cretaceous Lizard...Inside a Dinosaur's Belly - Mon 15 Jul 22:29 GMT

An ancient lizard was a flying dinosaur's last meal.

  The last moments of a Cretaceous lizard may have looked like this, as it was swallowed head first by the dinosaur Microraptor zhaoianus .

  About 120 million years ago, a small dinosaur gulped down a lizard, swallowing the reptile whole.

  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.

  This "exceptional specimen" paints a clearer picture of the animal diversity in this region during the Cretaceous, and it hints at what was on the menu for dinosaur predators like Microraptor, the scientists reported in a new study.

  [In Photos: Amber Preserves Cretaceous Lizards] Microraptor belongs to the theropod (meat-eating) dinosaur group known as the dromaeosaurids — small to medium-size bird-like dinosaurs — which also includes Velociraptor and Deinonychus.

  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.

  They were unlike the teeth in other Cretaceous lizards, and their unusual shape suggests that the lizard may have had a diet that differed from that of its close relatives, the scientists said in the study.