“You’re in the forest,” says Burnham, part of a team that recently documented the beast’s venomous abilities. “You can’t really see what’s behind you. … You may hear something in the leaves, but by the time you turn around it’s too late.
“It jumps on your back, embeds its teeth in your tissues and within a minute you’re into toxic shock, and just lay helpless as this thing devours you.”
While the end result is quite lethal — “pretty nasty,” Burnham says — the only shock-inducing effects these four-winged raptors can impart these days comes in the scientific world.
Thanks to a joint team of KU and Chinese researchers, the Sinornithosaurus — a feathered, turkey-sized dinosaur that hung around in trees and clamped onto birds some 128 million years ago — is documented as the earliest known bird-like creature to use such poison.