Palaeontologists claim to have found evidence that dinosaurs, from a species related to the Velociraptor, had venomous bite — like many poisonous snakes.
An international team has based its findings on a discovery of a fossil of a feathered “raptor” with grooved fangs which it says certainly delivered venom to killed their prey, ‘The Daily Telegraph’ reported.
In fact, according to the palaeontologists, even other members of the dromaeosaur family including Sinornithosaurus, which was a close relative of Velociraptor, may have killed or immobilised their prey with poison.
David Burnham of Kansas University, who led the team, said: “You wouldn’t have seen it coming. It would have swooped down behind you from a low-hanging tree branch and attacked from the back.
“It wanted to get its jaws around you. Once the teeth were embedded in your skin the venom could seep into the wound. 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.”
According to the palaeontologists, although bird-like and about the size of a turkey, Sinornithosaurus did not fly and was not an early bird — but it may have preyed on ancient birds 128 million years ago, using its long fangs to penetrate their plumage.
Sinornithosaurus had teeth similar to those of rear— fanged snakes and venomous lizards such as the Gila Monster of Mexico. A series of fang-like teeth on the upper jaw bore grooves that are thought to have channelled poison.
The team, which has studied a well-preserved skull and partial skeleton of the dinosaur, found at the site of forest in north-east China, also found depressions in the jaw bone on each side of the face that may have housed poison glands.
Rather than delivering a killer bite with a powerful dose of venom, the dinosaur may have paralysed or immobilised its prey, rendering it helpless, they said.
The findings have been published in the ‘Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences’ journal.