New lizard species discovered in dinosaur stomach

A new species of lizard has been found in the stomach of a dinosaur.

A team of palaeontologists discovered the new specimen of the volant dromaeosaurid Microraptor zhaoianus with the remains of a nearly complete lizard preserved in its stomach.

The animal is unlike any previously known from the Cretaceous and represents a new species, Indrasaurus wangi, researchers said.

It had teeth unlike any other previously known from the Jehol Biota – a collection of 130-million-year-old fossils from northeastern China.

Researchers said this possibly suggested a unique diet for this new species, which was discovered by a team of palaeontologists led by Professor Jingmai O’Connor from the Institute of Vertebrate Palaeontology and Palaeoanthropology from the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

The discovery is the fourth documented case of a Microraptor preserving stomach contents.

The dinosaur is now known to have fed on mammals, birds, fish, and lizards, supporting the interpretation it was an opportunistic predator.

Published in Current Biology, the study sets out that the lizard is nearly complete and articulated, showing that it was swallowed whole and head first – meaning that Microraptor fed in a manner similar to living carnivorous birds and lizards.

Although the Jurassic troodontid Anchiornis dinosaur has been recently demonstrated to have egested pellets similar to extant carnivorous birds – most famously documented in owls – this ability was apparently absent in Microraptor, researchers said.