In Myanmar, in Burmese amber, known for preserving many unique fossils, palaeontologists found the skull of the smallest dinosaur. The remains of vertebrated are rarely found in amber, so this find is truly incredible. We’ll tell you what’s known about this sensational discovery.
Studying amber samples from Myanmar, biology professor Lars Schmitz, who works at Scripps College in California, discovered an amazing find. Using computed tomography, scientists examined the skull of an unknown creature and found out that it belonged to a bird-like dinosaur, the smallest known at the moment. Most likely these are the remains of an adult. Their age is 99 million years, which means the dinosaur lived in the Mesozoic era. The find was described in an article in Nature journal.
What kind of a dinosaur it is?
The dinosaur was called Oculudentavis khaungraae, which can be translated as “big-eyed toothy bird.” Its skull in shape and size resembles the skull of a hummingbird, the smallest modern bird, and differs from the skulls of other bird-like dinosaurs of that era. The length of the skull is 7.1 mm, the length of the head with the nib is less than 2 cm.
Oculudentavis had strong jaws, in which 29-30 teeth were located. Despite its tiny size, it was a predator and, as scientists believe, ate small invertebrates and arthropods. Judging by the shape and size of the eye-pits, the dinosaur led a diurnality. The eyes were on the sides of the skull (which is uncharacteristic of most predators) and resembled the eyes of modern lizards.
The missing evolution item between dinosaurs and birds
Oculodentavis, according to scientists, is the missing link in the evolution of dinosaurs from which all modern birds originated. It was considered that birds evolved from dinosaurs by downsizing, but the discovery of oculudentavis suggests that the evolution of birds was more complex. At the time when the first birds appeared, incredibly small bird-like dinosaurs already existed.