Temporal range: Early Cretaceous, 125 Ma
Xu & Norell, 2004
|Species:||† M. long|
Xu & Norell, 2004
Mei (from Chinese 寐 mèi to sleep soundly) is a genus of duck-sized troodontid dinosaur first unearthed by paleontologists in Liaoning, China in 2004. Mei lived during the Early Cretaceous Period. The binomial name of its only species, Mei long (Chinese 寐 mèi and 龙 lóng) means sleeping dragon.
Mei is a troodontid, a group of small, bird-like, gracile maniraptorans. All troodontids have many unique features of the skull, such as closely spaced teeth in the lower jaw, and large numbers of teeth. Troodontids have sickle-claws and raptorial hands, and some of the highest non-avian encephalization quotients, meaning they were behaviourally advanced and had keen senses. The type fossil is a young juvenile about 53 centimetres (21 in) long, complete and exceptionally well preserved in three-dimensional detail, with the snout nestled beneath one of the forelimbs and the legs neatly folded beneath the body, similar to the roosting position of modern birds. This posture provides another behavioral link between birds and dinosaurs. The chemistry of the matrix stone and the resting pose indicate the living animal was probably buried instantly in volcanic ash. A second specimen, DNHM D2154, was also preserved in a sleeping posture.
Mei is notable as a distinct species of troodontid based on several unique features, including extremely large nares. It is most closely related to the troodontid Sinovenator, which places it near the base of the troodontid family.
As a basal troodontid, unlike advanced troodontids, it has a bird like hip structure shared with many advanced maniraptorans.
In popular culture
Mei long were featured in the third episode of the ITV series Prehistoric Park, where they were depicted attacking a member of the fictional documentary crew, looking for the food in his pack. In the story, several M. long were later found dead near a volcano, suffocated by the toxic gasses, based on one hypothesized explanation for the 'sleeping' posture of the fossil. The program also erroneously depicted Mei without feathers and coexisting with the dromaeosaurid Microraptor, which lived later and is known from younger rocks of the Jiufotang Formation, rather than the older Yixian Formation where Mei was found.
- Junchang Lü, Li Xu, Yongqing Liu, Xingliao Zhang, Songhai Jia, and Qiang Ji (2010). "A new troodontid (Theropoda: Troodontidae) from the Late Cretaceous of central China, and the radiation of Asian troodontids." (PDF). Acta Palaeontologica Polonica 55 (3): 381–388. doi:10.4202/app.2009.0047.
- Xing Xu & Mark A. Norell (2004). "A new troodontid dinosaur from China with avian-like sleeping posture". Nature 431 (7010): 838–841. doi:10.1038/nature02898. PMID 15483610. Retrieved 2012-10-20.
- Gao, C.; Morschhauser, E. M.; Varricchio, D. J.; Liu, J.; Zhao, B. (2012). Farke, Andrew A, ed. "A Second Soundly Sleeping Dragon: New Anatomical Details of the Chinese Troodontid Mei long with Implications for Phylogeny and Taphonomy". PLoS ONE 7 (9): e45203. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0045203. PMC 3459897. PMID 23028847.
- "Animal Planet: Prehistoric Park". Discovery Communications. 2007. Retrieved 2007-08-21.
- Xu X., Zhou Z., Wang X., Kuang X., Zhang F., Du X. (2003). "Four-winged dinosaurs from China". Nature 421 (6921): 335–340. doi:10.1038/nature01342. PMID 12540892.