THEY have been portrayed as the most terrifying predators of the dinosaur era.
But now Irish scientists have discovered that the fearful velociraptor was just as likely to feed on dead animals as to kill live prey.
University College Dublin researchers, as part of a wider team, have found a bone from a pterosaur -- or pterodactyl -- in the guts of skeletal remains of a velociraptor which lived in the Gobi Desert in Mongolia some 75 million years ago.
The finding essentially proves that the carnivorous creatures would scavenge on available carcasses as well as killing fresh prey.
This is the first time bones from a pterosaur have been uncovered inside the guts of a dinosaur, also indicating that small dinosaurs were capable of consuming relatively large bones.
"It would be difficult and probably even dangerous for the small dinosaur to target a pterosaur with a wingspan of two metres or more, unless the pterosaur was already ill or injured," says Dr David Hone, one of the co-authors of the study, who is based at the UCD School of Biology and Environmental Sciences.