For the First Time, Researchers Discover a Venomous Dinosaur

by Sean Hinds, age 17

When we envision a dinosaur catching its prey, we usually imagine a ferocious T-Rex viciously clawing, biting, and gulping down some poor animal. But one dinosaur in particular appears to have used a very different technique.

Researchers Enpu Gong of Northeastern University in China, David A. Burnham of the University of Kansas, and their colleagues, recently examined the birdlike raptor called Sinornithosaurus. A description of a Sinornithosaurus fossil found at Liaoning Quarry in China in 1999 stated that the animal was roughly three feet long and lived around 125 million years ago.  Also of note was a duct running through the base of the teeth and a few interesting grooves in the teeth themselves.

Gong and Burnham have recently interpreted these unique traits.  They compared the specimen to modern venemous lizards, and concluded “Wow, that’s a venemous animal,” says Burnham. 
The two-scientists hypothesize that the duct and grooves comprised of a venom delivery system.  In addition, they believe that a previously unexplained cavity in the skull contained the venom gland.  Sinornithosaurus probably used its long teeth to penetrate the feathers of small birds and the skins of other animals.  The dinosaur would likely latch on until the venom stunned its prey.

Scientists were previously unaware that any dinosaurs hunted in this way.  Researchers are now searching for evidence that other dinosaur species might have used of  venom in hunting.

[Source:  The New York Times]