LAWRENCEVILLE, Kan., Dec. 23 (UPI) — A fossil found in China is the first venomous raptor in the lineage leading to modern birds, scientists at the University of Kansas say.
The turkey-sized Sinornithosaurus thrived nearly 128 million years ago in northeastern China, Larry Martin, a university paleontologist, said this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
“This thing is a venomous bird for all intents and purposes,” Martin said. “It was a real shock to us and we made a special trip to China to work on this.”
Sinornithosaurus, closely related to the four-winged glider Microraptor, had depressions on the side of its face that housed poisonous glands to deliver venom through its teeth, university researcher David Burnham said.
“The prey would rapidly go into shock, but it would still be living, and it might have seen itself being slowly devoured by this raptor,” Burnham said, noting the gland arrangement was similar to that found on modern fanged snakes.
Copyright 2009 by United Press International