Small mammals have eaten meat from dinosaurs

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Scientists from Tübingen find a rare trace. Tiny mammals, no bigger than today’s shrew, apparently lived on the largest living things on earth 160 million years ago.

Tübingen (dpa) – 160 million years ago, small mammals also fed on the carrion of giant dinosaurs. This was the finding of researchers led by Hans-Ulrich Pfretzschner from the University of Tübingen when they examined findings from northwestern China again.

According to information from the university on Friday, the scientists from the geosciences department found tiny bite marks on the cervical rib of a sauropod that was around 20 meters long and several tons heavy during its lifetime. They are the oldest known gnawing traces of mammals on dinosaur bones.

Because the hungry animal could only have been the size of a shrew today, the traces indicated that the mammals also ate carrion. Only in this way could the little ones eat the meat of the big ones. There was a wide variety of diets among early mammals. However, direct evidence such as bite marks on bones are very rare. The oldest to date were at most 100 million years old, said the study’s first author, Felix Augustin. “This is why our discovery from around 160 million years ago is so special.”

In 2000, researchers on a Sino-German expedition in Xinjiang province in northwestern China had unearthed numerous vertebrate fossils. The Tübingen team noticed the bite marks when they looked through it again.

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