Venomous Raptor Discovered
KU Biodiversity Institute scientists and their collaborator in China have found clues that suggest that a 125-million-year-old dinosaur from China was venomous.
Sinornithosaurus (pronounced sign-ornitho-sore-us) was a feathered, birdlike, dinosaur about three feet long. Living in forests during the Early Cretaceous period, this dinosaur hunted birds as well as small mammals and reptiles.
The discovery was made by Enpu Gong from Northeastern University in China, KU Vertebrate Paleontology Curator Larry D. Martin, Vertebrate Paleontology Preparator David A. Burnham, and geology graduate student Amanda R. Falk.
Their research suggests that Sinornithosaurus could not immediately dismember and gulp its prey. Instead, this animal about the size of a turkey grabbed on with its long teeth and let its venom seep into the wound, shocking and immobilizing prey. It then likely removed fur or feathers and ate the prey while it was still alive. The low-pressure venom delivery system that Sinornithosaurus employed is similar to that used by modern rear-fanged snakes and lizards: the pressure of their bite forces the long fangs into the tissues allowing the venom to seep along the grooves and into the wound.
This find is important not only because of the discovery of a venomous dinosaur, but also because of what it could mean for those already found. What other animals had the same ability? Burnham says that one possibility is Microraptor, a small four-winged relative of Sinornithosaurus.