Smaller than the world's tiniest bird.

By Cailey Rizzo
Updated March 13, 2020
Oculudentavis khaungraae skull preserved in a piece of amber.
Courtesy of Natural History Museums of Los Angeles County

The smallest-ever dinosaur skull was found in Myanmar, preserved for 99 million years in a piece of amber.

A recent report published in the journal Nature detailed the discovery of the new species, the Oculudentavis khaungraae, decidedly the smallest-known dinosaur of the Mesozoic era. Its name means “eye-tooth bird” for its unusual anatomy.

The skull is even smaller than that of a bee hummingbird, the smallest bird alive today. Its jaws are lined with more than 100 teeth, which suggests that the tiny dinosaur-bird was likely a predator, feasting on small insects. But because paleontologists only discovered the animal’s skull, there is still much unknown about the species.

Courtesy of Natural History Museums of Los Angeles County

The skull possesses several features that make it unique among fossils. The ring of bones that would have supported the eye is more common to what’s found in some lizards today. But the bones also show that it may have had acute visual abilities like an owl, although it would have likely been active during the day. Some bones are so unique that they aren’t found in any living creatures, and paleontologists say it’s difficult to understand exactly how the eye-tooth bird would have used its eyes.

Scientists hope that within the next 10 years they will have the technology to access the tissues preserved in the amber. Using that information, they will be able to determine more information, like the color of the animal’s feathers.

Courtesy of Natural History Museums of Los Angeles County

“It’s lucky this tiny creature was preserved in amber, as such small, fragile animals aren’t common in the fossil record,” Dr. Luis Chiappe, senior vice president of research and collections at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, said in a statement. “This finding is exciting because it gives us a picture of the small animals that lived in a tropical forest during the Age of Dinosaurs.”

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