The bird-like skull of a tiny new species of dinosaur has been discovered trapped in amber at an archaeological site in northern Myanmar. Scientists say the fossil find represents the smallest dinosaur from the Mesozoic era to date and its diminutive size makes it smaller than the smallest living bird found on Earth today.
“When I first saw this specimen it just blew my mind,” Jingmai O’Connor, a paleontologist with the Chinese Academy of Sciences and co-author on the paper, said in a Nature video. “I had literally never seen anything like this.”
The skull is estimated to be nearly 100 million years old, according to details of the remarkable find published Wednesday in the journal Nature. The find measures just over 15 millimeters in length, around the same size as the diameter of a US penny. Analysis of the skeletal features suggest the tiny creature was mature, had really big eyes and a lot of tiny teeth. For that reason, the new species has been given the scientific name of “Oculudentavis khaungraae” with the generic name “Oculudentavis” derived from the Latin for “eye-teeth-bird”. Its species name relates to the person responsible for donating the specimen.
To study the skull, the team ran the amber specimen through a specialized scanner that can determine features down to millimeter scales and generate a 3D reconstruction of the skull. Using the reconstruction allowed the team to infer how Oculudentavis may have lived and its eating habits. The reinforced skull also suggests it may have had a stronger bite than similar size species and likely fed on small insects. (Read more from “Smallest Dinosaur Found Trapped in Amber” HERE)